Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics

Dylan Jones. Faber & Faber, $27.95 (688p) ISBN 978-0-571-35343-9
In this colorful and sprawling oral history, Jones (David Bowie: The Oral History), editor-in-chief of British GQ, stitches together quotes from over 100 interviewees on the aesthetic revolution that birthed New Wave. In the petri dish of London’s Blitz club circa 1979, baroquely attired street kids “rivalling the unlit street lamps for attention in the moonlight” (a teenage Boy George among them) turned frustration at England’s “economic and cultural drought” into an explosive nexus of new styles, bands, and magazines in which they could admire themselves. Worshipping at the altar of David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, Jones notes, the image-obsessed New Romantics fused punk’s sartorial and sonic edginess with soulful melodies, atmospheric synths courtesy of Kraftwerk, and a dash of the avant-garde into a glossy pop style perfectly suited for the consumerist 1980s. Jones’s sharp wit fits between quotes that vary from insightful to catty. (One writer quips that Duran Duran “had no mystique because they came from Birmingham and always looked a bit desperate.”) Jones at times loses the narrative, as it loosely leaps from Blitz offshoots like Culture Club and Spandau Ballet to outfits like Depeche Mode and New Order. This is a fitfully enlightening but correctly maximalist take on a time when artistic excess and overkill was the norm. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/12/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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