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Comment: Condition: As new condition., Binding: Paperback / Publisher: Faber & Faber / Pub. Date: 2011-07-19 Attributes: Book, 458 pp / Stock#: 2062473 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past Paperback – July 19, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Reprint edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479944
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Amazing.” —Bruce Sterling, Wired.com

“Looking back over the last 25 years you’d be hard pressed to name a music journalist more adept at tracking and defining the zeitgeist.” —Dave Haslam, The Guardian

“Simon Reynolds, one of our most thoughtful music writers, poses a stark question for anyone who cares about the future of pop . . . A devastating critique of the way music is now consumed.” —Patrick Sawer, The Daily Telegraph

“Bracingly sharp. As a work of contemporary historiography, a thick description of the transformations in our relationship to time—as well as to place—Retromania deserves to be very widely read.” —Sukhdev Sandhu, The Observer (London)

“A provocative and original inquiry into the past and future of popular music.” —Booklist (starred review)

“[A] mix of canny erudition, critical theory, stylish prose, and vibrant evocations.” —Publishers Weekly

“Important—and alarming—reading for pop-music aficionados.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A hugely interesting and useful debate starter.” —NME

“If anyone can make sense of pop music’s steady mutation from what George Melly noted as its ‘worship of the present,’ to its current status as a living heritage industry where past, present and what the author calls a nostalgia for a lost future coexist, then you’d have to trust Reynolds. He’s a top-table critic whose keen ear is matched by a sharp eye for cultural context . . . An erudite study of pop’s eternal lock groove.” —Mark Paytress, Mojo

“The world’s finest living music writer.” —Christopher Mosley, D magazine

Retromania is a terrific book. Reynolds brings profound knowledge and oceanic depth and width to his argument, tracing his theme from trad jazz through the ’70s rock and roll boom to the hipsterism of today, via the hyper-connectedness and infinite jukebox of the web. Unlike many of the pop writers who inspired him as a youth, he deploys his high intelligence and vast range of reference lucidly, to argue and illuminate, not dazzle or alienate.” —Steve Yates, The Word

“Compulsively readable.” —FACT magazine

“If I had to choose just one commentator to guide me through the last quarter-century of popular (and not so popular) music, it would have to be—on the basis of depth of knowledge, range of reference, soundness of judgment, and fluency of style—Simon Reynolds.” —Geoff Dyer, author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

“If pop music is all about right now, what happens when the past refuses to go quietly? The ever-brilliant Simon Reynolds investigates the cult of retro, the temptations of nostalgia, and the future of music culture—all with a detective’s cold eye and a fan’s hot heart.” —Rob Sheffield, author of Love Is a Mixtape

“One of my favorite music writers wrestles one of my favorite musical paradoxes: What’s up with the fetish for the Old in pop’s Land of the Eternal New? Unpacking how YouTube makes history more lateral than linear, pondering the remarkable endurance of England’s Northern Soul scene, or wondering if record collecting is indeed a distinctly masculine sickness, Reynolds’s deep inquiries lead to a bigger question: Does obsessive engagement with the past make it harder to invent the future?” —Will Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

“The crowning achievement of Retromania is that it in no way contributes to the cultural malaise it critiques. You may struggle with the suspicion that you’ve seen it all before and heard it all before—but you’ve never read anything that approaches the idea of retro from as many entertaining and incisive angles. The present may be collapsing into the past, but this is a book for the ages.” —Greg Milner, author of Perfecting Sound Forever

About the Author

Simon Reynolds is a music critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Spin, Rolling Stone, and Artforum. He is the author of five previous books, including Rip It Up and Start Again.

Customer Reviews

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This is a lazy, silly, verbose and ridiculous essay in the form of a book.
peggfork
If the current music scene wasn't so vastly tired and predictable we wouldn't be in the midst of a phenomenon giving Reynolds the excuse to write a book.
J. Youngblood
Another problem with expectations: the title and cover art don't indicate that the book is 98% about popular music.
A. Fineman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By jt52 on September 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Retromania" is a long, extensive thought-piece on the rise to dominance of "retro" culture by the expat British pop critic Simon Reynolds (b. 1963). While Reynolds looks at the influence of retro in many areas of culture, from fashion to cinema to television, the real focus is on pop music. As we are living through a (permanent?) high tide of retro, it is impossible to fully understand as it seems to swamp every aspect of our cultural lives, so it's hardly surprising that Reynolds seems at times puzzled by the phenomenon. But he approaches the topic with intelligence, honesty, an almost bizarrely extensive knowledge of pop music history, and also a flair for writing. I found the book to be fascinating and I am sure I will be reflecting on the ideas Reynolds presents in the future. Finally, I found Reynolds to be a pleasant critic with whom to explore this topic - he isn't grating in the way so many critics can be, which is no mean feat.

I have a couple of comments and criticisms but let me start by summarizing the various parts of this sprawling and idea-filled book:

Reynolds lays out the initial approach to "retro" in his introduction, wittily titled "The `Re' Decade." What is retro? Reynolds later on presents a parsing of the word when covering 1960s fashion. Writers on fashion differentiate between "historicism", which is inspired by styles from a fairly remote time period (say, the Edwardian period), and "retro", the self-conscious remaking of art initially made within living memory (e.g. writing a song that sounds just like Alice in Chains' 90s output). Reynolds rightly comments that the two categories flow into each other and points out how the 2000s (which he calls the "noughties") involved the recycling of every style.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By forcor on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I share the author's fascination about how so much of today's pop culture recycles, remixes, or simply worships the pop culture of the not so distant past. I was a bit surprised, however, to learn that this book is 95% about pop/rock music. You will find a little about fashion, a little about art, but next to nothing about film, TV, or literature. If the word "Culture" were replaced by the word "Music" in the title, it would be a bit more accurate.

That said, Simon Reynolds is a walking encyclopedia of rock, and he name-drops seemingly thousands of recording artists and movements, at least half of which are profoundly obscure. Though my knowledge is far more limited than his, I didn't find Reynolds' tone to be snobbish or exclusive. He clearly wants to share his passion for music history and has taken care to write something that anybody with a healthy interest in pop/rock over the last 60 years will be able to follow.

A warning, though: the book covers a LOT of ground. It's not a brisk or easy read - you may find yourself, like me, going through a couple of pages, then heading straight to YouTube in order to listen to the music of the many esoteric artists that are referenced. But hey, that expands your horizons, which is a good thing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Cox on January 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Simon Reynolds creates a glorious mess here, providing a thought-provoking and sometimes maddening look at contemporary culture's obsession with the... not-contemporary. Highly recommended. One note, however, is that the Kindle version has formatting issues. It does not account for the sidebar texts in the layout, which results in having to read the main and secondary texts in alternating paragraphs.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eugene Zinovyev on September 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is certainly a book for those who that current popular music and popular culture in general seems to be lacking in originality and just wants to reinvent the past instead of the future. Reynolds does a great job of marshalling the evidence in form of the overwhelming number of reunion tours, rock documentaries and focus on the glory days of the past. However, he never really answers his own big question namely, why is music currently like this and is it a bad thing?

There are wonderful chapters that tie into the early retro-revivals like Northern Soul and another one about Japanese bands who do spot on sound and sigh renditions of previous anglo bands, hence Reynolds' statement that all of pop music is "Turning Japanese." However, he never seems to talk about the artists that really have come to define pop music. Even though the White Stripes and the Strokes getting passing references he never spends any time on either band, even though those two artists came to define the sound of 2000's rock and attitude. Nor does he spend anytime analyzing the current state of hip-hop, which he has written about extensively. While it can be argued that current hip-hop has gotten a bit lazy, its certainly not true that it is in any way trying to be retro (ie trying to sound like say 1992, or 1987 or what not.)

So in the end the book is a bit unsatisfying your get mini profiles of scenes and artists but no take on "what it all means."
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Format: Paperback
I’ll start by getting the parts that might turn some people off, but this book is well worth getting past these points. First, the book is mostly about music, not all possible variations on the retro theme. There is some stuff on other retro trends, but music dominates the vast majority of the book. Second, the author’s treatment is academic and occasionally a bit too verbose. He could have trimmed some sections and not lost a bit of impact.

Having those things out of the way, the fascinating topic and the quality of the analysis makes this book just fantastic, especially if one is well-versed in the last 60 years or so of popular music and wants some intriguing insights into where it’s been and where it’s going. Reynolds dissects our urge to look backwards, and puts today in its proper context.

There have always been retro trends, many of which Reynolds documents at various points in the book, but not all are created equal, and there is good reason to think that recent trends are not just “cyclical” and “we’ve been here before” and similar excuses for why there is a dearth of definitively new sounds. The dynamic of “retro” is too complex to explain it in a short review, but there are times when it can spur creativity and help new musical movements launch, and other times where the trend seems to be a calcifying influence that kills the fun for any but the most hardcore. Reynolds explains his problems with retro, particularly the seemingly greater extent of it that we have today.
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