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Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s (Tracking Pop) Paperback – June 7, 2011


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Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s (Tracking Pop) + Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s
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Product Details

  • Series: Tracking Pop
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472034707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472034703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"In carefully distinguishing the ways in which a genre is historically informed and discursively created, Cateforis has given us an exemplary treatise on an emergent historical phenomenon, a feat that can be appreciated by anyone interested in genre, even if they cannot distinguish their Kajagoogoo from their Spandau Ballet."
—James Paasche, Popular Music and Society



(James Paasche Popular Music and Society 2012-07-24) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Theo Cateforis is Assistant Professor of Music History and Culture in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University.  His research is in the areas of American Music, Popular Music Studies, and Twentieth-Century Art Music. He is editor of the anthology The Rock History Reader.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ihasch on October 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
To me New Wave has always been a subject sorely in need of clarification. Like "punk" and "post punk", exactly what it is and exactly who it refers to has always been a matter of confusion. As the main title of the book suggests (a play on Devo's Are We Not Men), the author endeavors through this study to define what new wave is all about. In fact, the title indicates the author's recognition that such clarification is needed. To many people, new wave has been narrowly synonomous with the synthpop bands they saw in videos in the early days of MTV. This is not surprising. Such bands were highly visible in the early age of music video, becoming a convenient frame of reference. In providing really the first major evaluation of new wave music, Cateforis corrects this narrow view and provides cohesion to the subject. In providing a comprehensive history of how new wave developed and the distinguishing elements of its music and style, Cateforis ensures that the first wave of new wave bands that arose in the mid 70s (bands such as Blondie, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Devo, the B52s, the Cars and the Knack) get their proper due. Cateforis in no way neglects later developments, providing chapters that focus on Gary Numan and Adam Ant among others, but this is a significant contribution given the exclusionist tendencies that invariably follow a poorly defined musical term.

An important aspect of this book is that it is written from an academic setting. This means that the author feels compelled to comply with academic conventions regarding sourcing. It also means that the tone of the book is objective as opposed to polemical. As someone who has read his fair share of music writers, this is very refreshing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martini Houdini on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There have been hundreds of books written about Punk and Post-Punk music in which New Wave was seldom mentioned (even though New Wave grew out of Punk). And when it actually was discussed, it was often only touched upon briefly, as if it was some sort of footnote. Quite the opposite, Theo Cateforis' book places New Wave music front and center, which has long been overdue. I found this book to be a great read on an often misunderstood genre of music. Especially interesting is the section that deals extensively with Adam & the Ants and their unique album "Kings of the Wild Frontier," which to many, including myself, helped to define the New Wave music of the early 80s. I highly recommend this book to anyone who was fortunate enough to grow up during the late 70s and early 80s, a time when music was going off into new and exciting directions as a result of the groundwork laid by Punk.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D.J. Stroud on January 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I was happily soaked by New Wave in the late 70s and early 80s, so I was looking forward to this book by Theo Cateforis. Unfortunately, it was a long, hard slog to get through it in order to glean a few nuggets of comprehensible information. Cateforis' writing is as dry as a bone, and as ponderous as album-oriented rock. In fact, the only really down-to-earth comments were quotes from the artists themselves. As Blondie's Chris Stein stated: "Everything is bulls*** in the '70s." To me, after enduring the beige and bland 1970s, set to a soundtrack of Delta Dawn, disco, and A Horse with No Name, New Wave seemed like an adrenalin shot of pure fun. Thanks to MTV, visually it was an explosion of color and style. Musically, the style varied from band to band, but it was always energetic and danceable. I don't remember any 'tude or anger to the music. For music-obsessed teenagers, it was a golden time. This book is an exhaustive history and analysis of the movement; key word being exhaustive. All the joy and fun is leeched out. Instead we get plodding term-paper writing. For example, here's the Cars' drummer David Robinson on the band's visual image: "Everybody had a lot of black and white clothes." And here's Cateforis on the Cars' visual image: "On the one hand, the colors red and black evoked an array of avant-garde artistic movements, from the solid metallic, industrial reds and blacks favored by 1970s minimalist artists like Donald Judd and Tony Smith to the angular red and black designs of the 1920s Russian Constructivists, whom Kraftwerk paodied on the cover of their 1978 album The Man Machine. On the other hand, the dark reds and blacks and geometric forms of their clothes had an even more general resonance, easily suggestive of the very hues and shapes of the modern urban city, with its endless succession of brick buildings and dark skyscrapers." It's that kind of book.
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Format: Paperback
There is a confusing bit of vocabulary: punk, new wave, synth pop, and post punk. There's overlap, to be sure. Throw in world music and world beat the way the author does and there is more potential for mixups.
Cateforis does a good job distinguishing, in musical terms, "new wave" from the proud AOR traditions of the '70s. The danceable double-stroke chatter of the revived surf beat vs. the compartmentalized thud of of say, Mick Fleetwood. The cheesy vintage keyboard revival. The monophonic synthesizer as played by the Keith Emersons and Rick Wakemans vs. how it was played by Gary Numan. The harmonic language of a Gary Numan-style act is also dissected well, and there are notated examples.
I was less interested in what I'll call the style and fashion components of the book. It was complementary, I guess, to the recent Simon Reynolds book on retro. I also think that plundering "other" cultures for musical inspiration is nothing new, although the author seems to think it is.
Still, worth the read. Readable except for a few moments of university press pomp in the writing. If you've ever grooved to the coda of Gary Numan's "Cars", check it out. Or as Pat Benatar would say, Get Nervous.
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