In spite of slogans to the contrary that I may have spraypainted on the side of the Wal-Mart in Rockland, Maine when I was 16 years old, punk died about two years after it began. I suppose it could be argued that there were a few SoCal exceptions who MAYBE pushed it until about 1984, but that is a story that has been told again and again and again. A more interesting story is what happened next.
In Rip It Up and Start Again, author Simon Reynolds looks at those key few next years following the Sex Pistols’ self-destruct and the Clash’s transition into an “FM-friendly classic rock band.” Bands like the Talking Heads, the Cure, Joy Division, Devo, Public Image Ltd., the Human Lague, Echo and the Bunnymen, the English Beat, and at times, the Specials were busy cranking out self-conscious new tunes that were decidedly anti-60s, anti-hippie, and anti-peace and love.
No meandering, self-indulgent guitar solos, no choppy, bluesy guitar riffs. Postpunk made “an attempt to replay virtually every major modernist theme and technique,” including attitudes, words, and gestures from absurdism, dada, Brecht, Bauhaus, and Duchamp. But the book asks the question: Was it really as serious as all that (at least before Brian Eno came along and bummed everyone out), or was it a bunch of kids, who, in their desperation to avoid the mainstream, allowed the gesture to overwhelm the music? Slate has the full review; I’m buying the book. (Thanks, Matt!)