Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past

Simon Reynolds. Faber and Faber, $18 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-86547-994-4
Kids today are too besotted with every old thing—and a stagnant culture is the result, argues this lively though muddled manifesto. Rock critic Reynolds (Rip It Up and Start Again) visits retro impulses in fashion, architecture, movies, and painting, but focuses on what he claims are the formaldehyde-soaked horrors of retro rock music: tours by geriatric boomer bands; wistful VH1 retrospectives; the musty curatorial obsessions of rock museums and hipster connoisseurs; new bands whose music merely cuts-and-pastes hoary influences; the all-preserving Internet, where adolescents graze in every musical era without developing their own generation-specific sound. There's self-contradiction here, and shallow jadedness—musically, "2010 didn't feel that different from 2009, or even 2004"—and a strange pique at teens who distinguish aesthetics from novelty ("The attachment on the part of young people to genres that have been around for decades mystifies me"). The author's brief for a self-consciously modernist pop music of "constant change and endless innovation" itself betrays a retro hankering for 1960s-style rock revolutionism. But Reynolds's mix of canny erudition, critical theory, stylish prose, and vibrant evocations of bands both famous and unheard-of, nails the appeal of retro almost despite himself; as he deplores musical nostalgia, he reminds us why it mesmerizes us. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 300 pages - 978-0-571-23208-6
Paperback - 458 pages - 978-0-571-23209-3
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-1-4299-6858-4
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