Tuesday 17 June 2014 by

Retromania, Simon Reynolds, Faber & Faber, Book

A Month of Non-Fiction

Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past by Simon Reynolds

I always thought that looking back with fondness on things was OK until I realised it meant I was no longer looking forward in anyway. My musical tastes are stuck in about 2004-2008 which granted isn’t that long ago but it won’t be too long before it is considered ‘retro’ surely? I sought out this book because I wanted to hear more about the fascination the world has with its past, 80s clubs and even 90s theme nights are rife and ‘Retromania’ has really taken hold. In Reynolds’ book he looks at the minutiae of Retromania and what these obsessions actually mean for the future.

The book’s summary:

We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. Band re-formations and reunion tours, expanded reissues of classic albums and outtake-crammed box sets, remakes and sequels, tribute albums and mash-ups… But what happens when we run out of past? Are we heading toward a sort of culturalecological catastrophe where the archival stream of pop history has been exhausted?

Reynolds looks as music as a key part of culture, which of course it is, and how perhaps our own cultural future is being stagnated by endless reunions and reformations. I dread to think what he’d think about The Reunion on ITV, it’s probably all his worst nightmares coming true.

I was a little disappointed that this book is only about music, I thought the mention of culture meant it branched further into other areas but it does stay very closely tuned to music. Reynolds is a fantastic music journalist and writer who knows his stuff inside out, his assertions and theories definitely get you thinking and it did make me want to go out and dig out some brand new music and appreciate what is out there on the market today, without any clear influence from what has already gone by.

Reynolds thinks originality is being stifled and that innovation is being curbed by the constant choice of sampling and resampling classic pop rather than creating their own. Every time another band reunites, a new one loses their chance to be heard. As the fans of what was pop music age then there is still demand for aged bands, thus changing the structure of the popular music culture and everything that surrounds it.

It truly is fascinating but as I’m not completely music obsessed some if it did kind of go over my head in that I found myself skim reading rather than focusing. I would have liked to see Reynolds take his theories to wider culture aside from music and related fashions.

Rating, Review, Three


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