Post-punk is so prevalent in the club scene, it makes sense that a book should finally come out. Sometime Voice scribe (and the hubby of our TV and book critic Joy Press) Simon Reynolds does the dirty work for the rest of us lazy writers and lovingly details key moments from 1978 to 1984 in Rip It Up and Start Again.
He celebrated the American release on March 11 at Nublu quite fittingly. “Post-punk soldiers” (as Reynolds dubs them) Dan Selzer, Mike Simonetti, and Roy Dank spun records from the era, and the local band with the most hype, Kudu, played a set. (“I really like Kudu. They are quite obviously influenced by ESG—there’s something very goth, very Siouxsie and the Banshees, about them too,” Reynolds said later.)
Nublu, a small, off-the-beaten-path lounge off Avenue C, is normally crowded, but it seemed even more so for the occasion. The crowd was an odd mix of cool Nublu regulars, weekend warriors, and music geeks, including writer Mike Rubin, Reynolds’s right-hand lady Geeta Dayal, and Syrup Girl Vivian Host. An aging frat boy well past his last pint—wearing a floral red shirt over a T-shirt, shorts over pants, a yellow baseball cap, and with wraparound shades—nearly crashed an expensive keyboard/sampler. Another extraordinarily drunk girl thought it’d be funny to play the keyboard over the DJs as they spun Heaven 17 (pages 17, 323–25, 345–46), Delta 5 (pages 5, 65, 66), and Bow Wow Wow (pages 251–52, 256–59). Whenever something vaguely familiar came on, I elbowed Reynolds, the resident expert. “You know who this is?” “Are you quizzing me?” he elbowed back.
Later, we talked more seriously about the era that produced bands like Gang of Four, Devo, Joy Division, and Interpol (psych!). The book is filled with curious epiphanies—such as the little-known fact Neil Young was a Devo fanatic. “One aha moment for me was with Devo,” says Reynolds. “I thought they were a cynical group; I had no idea they were hippies. It was revealing to discover that they’d been idealistic once and Devo was a really poisoned response to that, really black humor.”
The timing of Rip It Up couldn’t be more perfect, but Reynolds says that he started the book well before the current revival—which spawned the Rapture and the Liars—really got under way. “I actually started thinking about it a little bit before. There was Erase Errata and a few other people. People were beginning to reissue stuff. Andrew Weatherall did a compilation of ’80s music called Nine O’Clock Drop,” says Reynolds. “When I was first working on the book I realized there was this party called Transmission thrown by Dan Selzer at the Plant Bar [R.I.P. —Ed.]. It was like taking a working vacation—after working all day on a post-punk book and go and listen to post-punk. Dan’s party was one of those things where I was like, ‘Ah, there is this growing interest.’ ”
Now it seems like we’re on a never ending post-punk ’80s revival, except it’s called dance-rock. “I like the Liars. They seem to have gone back to the attitude and the approach rather than just reconstituting the sound,” says Reynolds. “I like bands that reconstitute the sound, but I feel slightly ashamed. Like Franz Ferdinand—this is fun, but we could all do better than this.”
Perhaps it’s just time for Reynolds to invent a new genre, as he is so wont to do. “I haven’t done that for ages!” he protests. “I have to shake that reputation. I try to avoid it. ‘Post-rock’—people are still annoyed by that. I’m surprised that term survived; I see it in record stores. It obviously has something going for it.”
The next big thing, just FYI: “Hauntology. It’s a term of Jacques Derrida—it describes a bunch of bands that have this ghostly thing. It’s a post-structuralist word. It’s a small genre. About four people.”