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Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night Paperback – October 27, 2017
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Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
Edited by Andrew Gallix and Richard Cabut
ZERO BOOKS £17.99
Academic reactions to punk four decades on
Punk's power lies in its highly fragmented legacy: on the one hand, nostalgic weekends in Blackpool, on the other, key critical thinking as collated here. Editors Richard Cabut (formerly of positive punks Brigandage) and Andrew Gallix, founder of 3:AM Magazine, corral some of punk's finest theorists to document the "blank zone" in which a scene blossomed; early chroniclers such as Jon Savage and Jonh Ingham remind that it was a series of cultural seeds scattered, trigger points for what followed.
Penny Rimbaud of Crass, psychogeographer Tom Vague, Barney Hoskins, Judy Nylon, Simon Reynolds and late theorist Mark Fisher all cast an academic eye over punk, finding it in Parisian art galleries, squat-land, the Angry Brigade, conceptual non-bands (Chrissie Hynde's The Moors Murderers, Julian Cope's Nova Mob), jive-talking McLaren wannabes, proto-Dadaist Arthur Cravan , French Situationism and German Romanticism. The subtext here suggests that punk was an outward-looking movement against the end of the British empire.
-Ben Myers (MOJO magazine)
Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist Deborah Levy has chosen Punk is Dead as one of her books of the year in the New Statesman, 17-23 November 2017:
"I thoroughly enjoyed Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zero Books). Edited by Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix, this anthology of essays, interviews and personal recollections reflects on the ways in which punk was lived and experienced at the time. Gallix flips his finger at those who see nostalgia as an affliction and rightly attempts to promote the fragmented and contested legend of punk to "a summation of all the avant-garde movements of the 20th century . . . a revolution for everyday life".
The book's title (Modernity Killed Every Night) quotes Jacques Vaché, friend to the surrealist André Breton. But Punk Is Dead isn't end-to-end cultural theory; there's a lot on clothes. Three strands unfurl - papers, essays and first-person accounts. Cabut and Gallix have included historical documents - such as Penny Rimbaud's 1977 essay, Banned from the Roxy, newly annotated by the Crass drummer - while Gallix argues that punk started ending when it acquired a name. Jon Savage is here, and Ted Polhemus and Vermorel. (...) As an interview with the punk turned philosopher Simon Critchley attests, punk unleashed ideas. It palpably changed suburban teenage futures, rather than ending them.-- Kitty Empire, The Observer, 19 November 2017
Composed of essays, interviews, memoirs and manifestos by veterans of London'spunk scene, Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix's Punk is Dead is anostalgic, intelligent homage to the brief, hazy era of "pure" Londonpunk, before it was named, over-described and turned into anothersubcultural phenomenon. This golden age lasted somewhere between fourand eighteen months, depending on who's recollecting, although mostagree that by 1978, it was over. . . . A yearning for its ownprelapsarian state was built into punk's ethos. As the punkmusician-turned-philosopher Simon Critchley tells Gallix, "Because ofthe acute awareness of the fact that punk . . . would become a creatureof the very music industry whose codes it subverted, we knew that it was going to be shortlived. And that was fine"
The book is also a homage to youth and lost possibilities. In herforeword, Judy Nylon (formerly Niland) describes arriving in London in1970 with an overnight bag and $250, wearing jean shorts and a blackBorganza coat. . . . "Bands are necessarily approximations of the dreams that conjured them up", Gallix writes in his essay "Unheard Melodies".Punk is Dead shows the transmission of culture as a kind of lucid groupdreaming. The accounts of its contributors capture the role thatcoincidence plays in history. Ideas can rarely be traced back to oneperson; they accrete and recur.
. . . Gallix is eloquent in his defence of nostalgia against the cult of an amnesiac future. Punk might be not only the last great subculture in the rock and roll mode, but the most analysed and documented.Nevertheless, art and cultural histories are always reductive, and, ashe writes, "the past is subtly rewritten, every nuance graduallyairbrushed out of the picture". Some of the contributors to Punk is Dead are professional writers and critics, although most of them are not.Cumulatively, their contributions evoke the texture, meaning andsensation of being young four decades ago in a now-unimaginably derelict London. They recall the smell of new vinyl records, beer, cigarettesand hair dye; the pointless squabbles with band mates; the compositionof outfits; the eruption of street fights; the sweet taste of cherriespicked outside a squat; and the ubiquitous brown packets of speed. . . . Some of the pieces are historical documents, while others appear forthe first time in this anthology. Together, they capture the collectivesoul of an era.
-- Chris Kraus, Times Literary Supplement, 10 January 2018
In his introduction Gallix admits that punk is not only "probably the most analysed youth culture ever", but that it's also one of the mostresistant to analysis, a problem that his book "has not quite solved".Indeed, any attempt at a definitive examination of a movement risks akilling, like an animal categorised through vivisection. Accordingly, he and Richard Cabut have instead chosen the theme of punk as atransformative force, a becoming, not just in terms of the music and the culture around it, but in terms of the humans involved, fans icluded.Cabut and Gallix are just about old enough to be first-hand witnesses to punk: among these pieces are their own memoirs of the time.Accordingly, the book is as much testimony as it is criticism. ...Manyof the essays are welcome acts of preservation. Some are taken from rare 1970s fanzines like Kill Your Pet Puppy, long extinct magazines likeZigZag and Sounds, and early 2000s blogposts, such as a typicallytheoretical take from the late Mark Fisher's blog K-punk. Often, thesehistorical documents are newly annotated by their authors. . . . Thislayered reading gives the book a feeling of vital historical scope,rather than indulgent nostalgia.
-- Dickon Edwards, The Wire, January 2018
About the Author
Andrew Gallix is a writer and freelance journalist who has lectured at the Sorbonne University in Paris since 1992. In 2000, he launched one of the first literary webzines, 3:AM Magazine, for which he is Editor-in-Chief. He has written for The Guardian, Financial Times, Irish Times, New Statesman, Literary Review, Times Literary Supplement, BBC Radio 3 and elsewhere. He lives near Paris, France.
- Publisher : Zero Books (October 27, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1785353462
- ISBN-13 : 978-1785353468
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.45 inches
Best Sellers Rank:
#3,231,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #325 in Political Literature Criticism
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Top review from the United States
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Some of the ideas are good but a reader must wade through a lot of pretension to get to them. As a former punk rocker in 80s Los Angeles, I do recall that enthusiasm for making the music was more important than real talent for playing an instrument or singing. However, punk rockers were not pretentious at all. In fact, they were rebelling against the arrogant rich and those striving to be rich (like on the hit television shows of the time Dallas and Dynasty). The biggest negative for this collection is the absence of the music. Even the Sex Pistols, arguably the first punk rock band, were mentioned more for their appearance and lifestyle than their music.
I would recommend Punk is Dead more as a research source for a college class than for former punk rockers like myself. Sometimes it is best to leave the past in the past. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Zero Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2021