Simon Reynolds pulls back the post-punk curtain

book-cover-totally-wiredAnyone who’s read Simon Reynolds‘s Rip It Up and Start Again can tell you that his account of the post-punk era is a riveting read that will send you scurrying to iTunes and your local record shop to delve deeply into the music of Factory Records and beyond. While Reynolds has a website wherein you can find footnotes for Rip It Up and Start Again, there’s even more material that he compiled during the writing of the book.

That material is being released by Soft Skull next month as Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews. It contains interviews Reynolds conducted in preparation for writing Rip It Up and Start Again, as well as the “lost chapter” about SST and the Minutemen / Black Flag that was cut from the US edition of the original book.

After having read the SST chapter, I can understand as to why it was cut from the US edition of Rip It Up and Start Again. The analysis of how Black Flag went from being a fast punk band to hardcore to a sludgy, plodding proto-stoner rock band is fascinating, and one of the few instances where you can see an act progress from punk to post-punk. However, the jump in milieu from the UK to US is disconcerting, and while the material would’ve been an excellent addition to some of the recent California punk books like Kids of the Black Hole or Gimme Something Better, it just didn’t fit in with the UK scene.

The interviews are essential for fans of the bands involved, and if you’re just getting into any of the acts covered, you can get a deeper sense of how their sound developed, especially in how people in the production realm (like Martin Hannett with Joy Division) helped create a sound aesthetic for ther bands with whom they worked. The interviews with folks with whom you’re not familiar are like every other interview you’ve ever read: interesting when the person has interesting points of view, boring as shit when they’re boring as shit. Ari Up of the Slits is intriguing, if a bit “we started everything!” in her interview, and offers a much-needed female perspective, while the folks from Cabaret Voltaire are just as pretentious as you’d think. Surprisingly, the gents from Joy Division end up being fairly grounded.

This is more a bathroom book than a straight read, obviously. You’ll jump around in it, reading the bits you’re most interested in first, and only coming around to the other parts when you’ve read everything you wanted to. It’s 100% worth having on your shelf, however, and invaluable for fleshing out the stories referred to in Rip It Up and Start Again (specifically, you finally find out exactly why Martin Hannett had Joy Division’s drummer Stephen Morris take his drum kit apart).