Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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RETROMANIA: Pop Culture's Addiction To Its Own Past
By Simon Reynolds

(published June 2 UK / July 24 US)

We live in a pop era gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. The first decade of the 21st Century saw the runaway growth of an industry dedicated to the exploitation of rock's past, encompassing reunion tours, deluxe expanded reissues, rock documentaries and biopics, rock museums, remakes of iconic albums, and even reenactments by artists of famous events in music history. An endless Eighties revival, which reached the mainstream through artists like Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and La Roux, lasted the entirety of the decade, and has yet to subside even as hipsters are talking up the Nineties as the next big nostalgia wave. Paralleling the West's oil addiction, pop's economy grows ever more dependent on its own history.

RETROMANIA is the first book to examine the retro delirium that has taken over pop culture. But while it is focused on music, the book's span encompasses everything from fashion to the contemporary art scene to the cult British comedy show The Mighty Boosh. Blending investigative reporting and cultural critique, RETROMANIA traces the roots of retro in rock's own history and assesses its implications for the future of music. Is it a dearth of innovation that inspires the chronic nostalgia for the lost golden ages of rock's youth? Or have we become victims of our ever-expanding capacity to store, share and instantly access cultural data, a historically unprecedented phenomenon symbolized by the rise of the iPod and YouTube?

Earlier epochs had their own obsessions with what had gone before, but never before has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Does this retromania sound the death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own era? Are we heading toward a sort of cultural-ecological catastrophe, where pop's archival resources have been exhausted?

UK edition published NOW by Faber & Faber
US edition published NOW by Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Italian edition published NOW by ISBN Edizioni
French edition published 2012 by Le Mot and Le Reste
Spanish-language edition published 2012 by Caja Negro
German language edition published 2012 by Ventil Verlag

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