Public Image Ltd.

Punk and the Question of 'Post-Punk'


Punk has commanded attention unlike any other signifier of Rock's varied traditions and movements. Observers, and in some cases the artists themselves, have debated its origins, in the process traversing far from cultural factors toward national, ethnic, and political distinctions. Moreover, certain commentators only acknowledge a selected number of artists and scenes among the larger set commonly described as Punk, an obsessive tidying-up suggesting a breadth of historiography and criticism rare in studies of modern popular culture, but also disclosing an immaturity to the scholarship as well as the present-day import of old battles not yet decided. Questions regarding the origins and extent of Punk have in turn informed decisions regarding which artists deserve status as precursors and inspirations, as pre-, or proto-, Punk. "New Wave," a competing attempt to delineate and simplify the same era and many of the same artists, became an epithet, or at best a concept no longer symbolizing the lasting salient effects of Punk. All these strenuous efforts: performed for the sake of exalting the ideal suggested by Punk, of divining its essence. Other musics have impelled such dramatic acts of intellectual and psychological ardor (including the Folk revival, certain strains of Psychedelia, and "Kraut Rock") but on a smaller scale, and not riven by such discord over basic questions.

Only in Britain do we find that Punk as a distinct phenomenon warrants this high level of debate and inquiry. No, we're not positing that more good music of a greater variety came from Britain than the United States or elsewhere during the Punk era; such quantifications run contrary to the appreciation—the sentient experiences—that allowed for them in the first place. What we mean, rather, is that British Punk, as a singular phenomenon with manifold complex linkages to similar movements, and as a description of divers artists looming above, in some respects degrading, the artists in question, warrants status as the central event in popular music of the time. While this argument probably wouldn't incite many complaints among British listeners and commentators, what of us Americans? We've heard a lot over the years about British Punk being derivative of U S artists—and, even worse, a poorly-wrought derivative. This inferior position justifies curt dismissals of the aggressive, radical tactics of the British bands, and generally prioritizes the New York scene. What has made the artistic significance of British Punk especially difficult for Americans to understand is the pivotal role played by John Lydon, indeed one and the same Johnny Rotten often assumed to be a pitiable joke of an artist. Lydon—The Sex Pistols—London—Punk—and onward... a line of causality that precisely contrasts with the diffusion of scenes in the U.S. Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Athens, Minneapolis, and nascent collectivities scattered elsewhere in the nation, countered New York's potential as a center of activity, whereas the other British locales—save perhaps Manchester—did not do so with regard to London.

Before we delve further into the logic behind Lydon's impact, which in turn explains the centrality of British Punk, we must address the rote dissenting opinions which flare in many grumpy Punk lovers' brains as soon as the image of Rotten is transmitted there. Of course we have the standard critique of The Sex Pistols as a sham dreamed up by the shameless Malcolm McLaren, the band's svengali manager, a supposed top-down attempt at revolt, or, rather, a convoluted, unsuccessful fusion of the Rock music that had become a sensation (and a hot commodity) with critiques of consumerist society drawing upon Situationist and Dada ideas. This concern, though, is possibly as prevalent in Britain as it is among Americans; and was originally propagated by Lydon himself. Then there's the U.S Indie critique of British Rock from the immediate-post-Punk period onward, captured succinctly (though not advocated) by critic and occasional Guided by Voices member Jim Greer, in the Echo and the Bunnymen entry of the Spin Alternative Record Guide: "nothing U.K succeeding the first two Wire albums or the Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady was worth your American dollars." This perspective, once depressingly common among Indie social circles in the U.S, scorns "arty" types like McLaren, especially when they look approvingly, yet condescendingly, upon ravenous low-lifes; dismisses or ignores both the sociopolitical content of much prototypical British Punk and the intellectual proclivities and artistic pretensions of more-adventurous Punk-era artists; and disapproves of the turn toward electronics taken by countless British artists during the late 1970's.

These opinions have a lot in common with the mainstream U S view of British music as too pretentious, too soft—in other words, too queer—which comes to light whenever dim-witted Americans ponder why Brits no longer make music like The Who or Led Zeppelin did. A repressed envy of Britons—no, anyone who does not feel the need to be, as Gore Vidal once inscribed it, an "American Male"—is also at work here. The British, pre-Punk, had allied with Americans in rerouting the potentially-revolutionary Blues impulse into professionalized masculinized Rock, a feat Americans completed on their own in the last two decades of the Twentieth Century: first, with "hair Metal" making a mockery of Rock's gender-bending fashions (or, rather, making any sort of homosexual or asexual feature of the Rock-star persona into nothing more than fashion) and then, post-Pearl Jam, Rock becoming a forum for earnest guys lamenting the wily ways of the morally bankrupt, or arrogant men serving as one-man booster clubs for themselves [hello Hip Hop!], all of whom embody the worst of "American" reactionary imperialist culture and its peculiar religiosity: worshipping a god who allows himself to be told when he should bless a nation.

Nonetheless, British Punk had extensive influence in the U.S beyond accusations of being a copycat or sell-out; and millions of Americans have loved Punk-era British bands, quite content with the outsider status attained by way of their appreciation of slightly-exotic music made by aesthete foreigners. And Lydon, as countless testimonials prove, inspired a great deal of these artists, and a great deal more British artists—not vaguely, not in a roundabout way, but directly. They saw The Sex Pistols perform, if not in person then on television, or perhaps only heard them on the radio, and knew the die had been cast. New aesthetic means had been opened up. Or... those more aware of Rock's lineage of dissidents-not-by-choice [The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Silver Apples, Can, Brian Eno] knew it was time to stop listening, start musicking. Lydon arguably played the same role in British popular music that Elvis Presley did in the U.S. Perhaps this comparison will help Americans, given that Presley's central role is undeniable, yet the famed singer has been subject to numerous justified rebukes. Arguably, Lydon's influence on a broader level—taking in the U.S, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere—extends as far as that of Presley and other founders of Rock. Either way, Lydon's extraordinary position, achieved with the Sex Pistols but arguably best grasped via his work with Keith Levene and Jah Wobble in Public Image Ltd., is key to understanding the great number and diversity of artists who came age in Britain in the period, 1977-1981, and why its counterpart U.S culture, in its lack of such a clear divisive point of (new) origin, was prone to a dualistic framework of tradition versus rebellion, of a pessimistic—even nihilist—nature: such as No Wave's rejection of New York Punk's descent into being merely the "New Wave" of Rock, or Hardcore's dogmatism [the lowly position occupied by British "Oi!" Punk compared to Hardcore certainly does hint at the better music to be found with the latter, but also shows what methods excited Americans; given the over-lap between the earlier, simple British Punk and "Goth," perhaps the latter deserves comparison to Hardcore; either way, the dichotomy remains].

Wire

Assessing Lydon's remarkable impact, we too must consider the concept of post-Punk, or, "Post-Punk," as some would seem to have it. Indeed, having mentioned Public Image Ltd., we cannot ignore it. In early years of the Twenty-First Century, with its predictable, yet impressive, deluge of research into, and interpretation of, the music of the century-past, writers—and, again, some artists—began to speak of this certain "Post-Punk" in the same casual fashion they have of Punk, as if a common understanding of the term prevails among a certain learned reading/ listening public. While we do not necessarily find the term problematic (how could one object to such an innocent phrase?) we warn against limiting definitions, and yet also do not want the term to be so vague that it becomes interchangeable with its lower-case counterpart. Indeed, insofar as any relevant distinction exists between Punk and "Post-Punk" (that is, if we decide that the latter exists, and my quotation marks tell you it probably doesn't) it is the fact that there is post-Punk, but there is no "punk"—only Punk. Or, rather, there is only "punk" because of common grammatical and intellectual laziness (or, of course, if a term is used as it was before the early 1970's).

While "Post-Punk" is used by commentators far and wide, we again cannot ignore the Atlantic divide. Among Americans especially, the notion of "Post-Punk" as a genre seems to represent a realization that the aforementioned disregard for much British (and European) music of the post-Punk era had grown tiresome, and had helped make U.S Indie culture aesthetically retarded. Unfortunately, though, the opening-up of Americans' listening occurred after the rise in the 1990's of an endless array of gauche idiotic Punk (or "Pop Punk") artists. That is, Punk wasn't even remotely "cool" anymore. It didn't signify great, evocative art, but instead vapid commercialized music; the term was not redeemable. Few seem to want to rescue it from the negative, simplistic interpretation that that had long since become predominate, an understanding grounded mostly in rash judgments about louder, simpler artists and mob-like physically-aggressive fans. The vogue for "Post-Punk" takes care of this problem: young hipsters when they rave about Gang of Four do not have to be smeared by association with something as tacky as straight-up Punk, while the maintaining an aura of radicalism and danger, an important consideration in fashion-conscious, intellectually-hidebound yuppiedom. This dynamic, though, is only one factor in the "Post-Punk" fad, perhaps even a minor one. In both the U.S and Britain, gentrification of urban areas has certainly favored music that ostensibly matches the apolitical health-conscious non-hedonist ways of new wealth. As Mark Simpson, in Saint Morrissey, put it: "What's the point of an aesthetic rebellion against the world if the world has been aestheticised?" Those who think that such a cultural milieu will be kind to any artist, let alone those who insist that art reflect/ embody the entirety of human experience, are due for disappointment.

As for what this suddenly-topical "Post-Punk" sounds like.... In addition to Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd. (PiL), the bands most often factoring in any definition of "Post-Punk," as compared to Punk or mere post-Punk, include Joy Division, Pere Ubu, The Fall, The Raincoats, The Desperate Bicycles, Pylon, Swell Maps, The Pop Group, The Slits, Scritti Politti, and Young Marble Giants. The stereotypical "Post-Punk" approach highlights the role of the electric bass guitar, often letting it present the major, or an underlying, melody, or at least eschew the secondary position it had occupied in most Rock ensembles, even as it also might its necessary contribution to a driving, perhaps quite danceable, rhythm. The drums, first of all, offer up the tense, fast tempos we might associate with Punk, but they're often more intricate; they've also taken a step or two in the direction of electronic beats, especially because of the influence of digital delay effects on David Bowie's Low and Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, or, perhaps, in a similar anti-Punk/ anti-Rock gesture, the "drums" have become "percussion," de-emphasized or decentralized. The vocals in this aural environment have greater room to move: they can offer up traditional songs, but they can also take a step or two towards recited poetry, experimental voice music, or Rap. The guitars too have more free space, but nonetheless often are restricted to a rhythmic role influenced by Funk and Reggae styles. Finally, the studio techniques of Dub Reggae—the reverb, instrumental parts dropping in and out of the mix, quick shots of disorienting effects—were directly imitated by some artists. In short, a breaking-down of the Rock song in supposed stark contrast to the quickening, thickening methods of stereotypical Punk (or Heavy Metal).

That said, "Post-Punk" is an open-ended term, quite literally, temporally speaking; and as a genre signifier, it creates a great deal of awkwardness, semantically and conceptually. After Punk, in the broadest sense, comes everything not Punk itself. Is "Post-Punk" only music directly inspired by the earliest Punk acts, striving to do something clearly different in light of Punk's successes and failures, or at least forced to position itself vis-&#agrave;-vis Punk? Is it artists who started out playing straight-up simple Punk, but quickly moved on to new terrain? As we'll see below, these perspectives still lead us toward many artists who don't fit the descriptions above, who instead are only post-Punk. Indeed, having taken such a step, the common "Post-Punk" (that is, "Post-Punk" in its basic form, its template—say, Pylon) takes us back to relatively-standard Rock, and Punk Rock, structures. The problem perhaps is that we've been unkind—myopic, unimaginative—regarding what Punk, and especially British Punk, meant in the first place. Another way of putting it: a quasi-sociological perspective has predominated, allowing what appear to have been the major social manifestations of Punk—the fashion, the violence, the money (the basics, of course!)—to determine its place culturally. Though one would never know from reading most mainstream coverage of popular music, we could just as well take an approach similar to those of literary critics and art historians, letting the artists that nearly everyone accepts as foundational to Punk define what the movement's goals and characteristics were (or, rather, reject the notion that such a movement ever existed at all).

Pylon

The capitalized "Post-Punk" (as is also the case with "Post-Rock") falters as a conceptualization or contextualization, to the point where—we not humbly argue—it does not warrant differentiation from mere post-Punk, or rather—we do humbly argue—that the artists branded as "Post-Punk" should instead become part of the concept of Punk, so as to enhance and complicate a term that has been petrified, stuck in a misconceived state. If anything, distinct strains of the narrower "Post-Punk" sound could have their own names, new variants of Punk, even if the proposed terms turn out nearly as prosaic as what they replaced: "D.I.Y Punk," "Reggae Punk," "Dub Punk," "Experimental Punk," "Electronic Punk." The phrase "Post-Punk" simply cannot serve as the name of a style or off-shoot of Punk, not without confusing or, even worse, distracting the curious listener.

Not all of the potential "Post-Punk" bands noted above fit the description given. Some, or one, of those characteristics might define one of those bands, and others not, while some of those artists we could place in a different context, describe in ways not listed there. The same is true, of course, for Punk. Some aspects often associated with Punk, such as the desire to offend the audience, physically confronting them even, hardly apply to many groups commonly called Punk. In the early 1970's, when the word was used quite generally, often referring to 1960's "Garage" Rock, it was associated with naivete, the artists often talked down to in the same manner "folk" visual artists have been. Yet, as we've retrospectively discovered, the music made by the progenitors of Punk, including for example Iggy Pop of The Stooges and David Johansen of The New York Dolls, was more intellectually-informed and artistically-pretentious than the artists were allowed to let on at the time.

In other words, the point is not only that "Post-Punk" fails as a cohesive genre; after all, artists who adhere to any prescribed readymade method would hardly impel the level of retrospective appreciation Punk/ post-Punk artists have. There is no value to genrealizing music that has been praised for its divergence from stereotypes. No, Punk does not impose certain limitations its artists must abide; rather, it originates from the creations of artists themselves, often grouped together because of similar tastes going in, not similar results going out. The diversity of Punk debunks the very notion of "Post-Punk" as a categorizable field of music. Post-Punk is, again, a temporal designation. It includes Punk, and yet is encompassed by Punk as well. All those characteristics listed above, thus, apply to Punk. That is, they apply to some Punk artists, others not.

The term we do accept, post-Punk, does not rely upon disappointment with Punk, or accepting sensationalistic views of the simplest Punk, or rejecting the untold number of artists who imitate the Punk sound but whose artistry is lacking, or—worse still—exploit music for reactionary ends. Regardless if the music described as post-Punk such shares many traits with The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, or does not, it is post-Punk in the sense that it occurs after the proverbial gauntlet thrown down by John Lydon—namely, his vocals, and the image of him delivering them. The singer who is not an entertainer, who allowed ugliness to surface—ugliness in his appearance, ugliness in the sound of his voice, ugliness in the social venues he presented himself in—who addressed ornery subject matter, who rejected specious concepts of musical skill, who didn't pander to his audience-peers. In the U.S, post-Punk sometimes meant a willful avoidance of the British Punk mania, but only if the artists who acted as such also sought to build upon, or grow away from, the understanding of Punk prevalent in their nation, grounded as it was in The Velvet Underground and The Stooges (Iggy Pop stands as the only competitor to Lydon as a near-myth pioneer). To repeat, while could speak of a "post-Punk band", to suggest that the countless artists who fit such a designation cohere to form a genre or movement is to take a turn toward intellectual absurdity.

To those who might insist that my point rests largely upon irrelevant grammatical matters, that most writers after all don't speak of "Post-Punk" instead of post-Punk, let me state clearly that I'm certainly not speaking strictly about grammar. I am addressing how the words are used: that is, when a writer mentions "Post-Punk," "post-Punk," or—as is most often the case—"post-punk," they refer to a specific category, or groupings of artists, in the same sense that we refer to, say, the Abstract Expressionists, by which we mean of course not just art that's both abstract and expressionist (both being vague wide-open descriptions) but a selected number of artists in a certain place during a set time, with all due given to the rough edges and blurred boundaries required of such categories. Read reviews, liner notes, etc., and you'll see the term employed as a genre, an era; and often in places where you'd expect to find Punk instead.

The Raincoats

The murkiness of "Post-Punk," as a concept distinct from, not dependent upon, Punk (that is, the problem of the very existence of "Post-Punk" as compared to mere post-Punk) and the countering salience of considering the artists frequently defined as "Post-Punk" as instead part of Punk, becomes especially obvious when one considers a few of the New York artists nearly always grouped together as Punk. Patti Smith, Suicide, Television, Blondie, and Talking Heads do any fit within the narrow confines of the basic Punk played by their peers The Ramones (or by Cleveland ex-pats The Dead Boys, or West-coast groups like The Germs and The Avengers). In other words, even before the concept of "Post-Punk" existed, indeed, at a time when, as noted above, "Punk" was still used by journalists like Lester Bangs to refer to "Garage" Rock, the artists that would in part come to define Punk went beyond the limitations of what would come to be called Punk. In other words, Punk was post-Punk before it was Punk. And that's not even considering the artists bestowed with the status of pre-Punk!

As far as New York partisans are concerned, this confusion arose because British Punk kidnapped a genuine rejuvenation of Rock music and turned it into something stupid. Needless to say, this argument only works if British music of the time had consisted entirely of the worst of the early Punk groups and the later "Oi!" Punk. At the same time, neither Greil Marcus's rebuke of New York Punk in favor of British artists, nor even the implicit favoring of No Wave that has accompanied the increased interest in (or, rather, mere availability of recordings by) No Wave artists, offer much in the way of conceptualizing the New York scene. Moreover, besides the New York groups noted above, other artists often included in the "Post-Punk" category began work either before or simultaneously with Punk: This Heat, Throbbing Gristle, Devo, The Residents. Of these artists, those inclined toward greater experimentation actually fit the common notion of "Post-Punk" least. With the No Wave scene, a similar dynamic appears: only The Contortions fit the strict "Post-Punk" mold.

Ideally, Simon Reynolds's book, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984 [2005], precisely by accepting, and delving into, the broad implications of the concept, would serve as the corrective, sorely needed and eagerly welcomed, to this still-nascent concept of "Post-Punk" (which, moreover, we could seemingly discard quite easily, given the apathy and obtuseness of the artists and patrons who espouse it). In many ways, it succeeds. One could imagine that an author concerned more with making money, and "making the scene," would have written a book that focused more on the "Post-Punk" artists noted above; the initial reaction to the book suggested that many readers, Americans especially, were confused and disappointed by its broad scope. (What are we to expect from those excited by the notion of "Dance Punk"?) In adroit prose that usually avoids dumb Rock-crit cliches [if only I never saw the words "damaged" or "haunting" in a music review again...], Reynolds portrays the unique social contexts these artists arose from, whether or not the scenes in question ended up with identifiable sounds, as with Leeds or Sheffield, or did not, as with Manchester or London, or rest somewhere in the middle of this particular spectrum, as with Liverpool or Bristol or Edinburgh. Sometimes the chapters veer too close toward standard-form accounts of particular bands, presumably reflecting the demands of the publishing marketplace. Nonetheless, the book's importance is paramount. Because of the breadth of artists and scenes covered concisely and effectively, I can think of few other books as useful for listeners of popular-music-as-art, save perhaps another book very important to this topic, Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids [1993].

That said, Reynolds follows the common practice of present-day journalists and academics of not capitalizing the names of art movements. More important, he does not directly address the question of when the term "Post-Punk" came into use, and if there is a set "Post-Punk" template that some artists fit better than others. While he lays out in his Introduction and throughout the book several crucial aspects of post-Punk (or, perhaps, "Post-Punk") some nagging questions remain: didn't Punk share these traits as well? Or, rather, can't Punk be given credit for broaching some of the themes, and first exploring some of the sonic territory, we associate with "Post-Punk"? And, therefore, is Punk being short-changed by the new century's fondness for "Post-Punk"? Again, these concerns would not weigh too heavily, of course, if the problem of the term, "Post-Punk," increasingly being used as a genre signifier didn't exist in the first place, and, especially, if its identity and value did not rest upon Punk's supposed negative qualities and its failure to enact a revolution whose goals no-one defined with clarity. Ideally, we could come out of this period of renascent interest in the "Post-Punk" bands with a historicization that serves all artists involved better—Punk, post-Punk, or both. Why dwell too much on the downside of any Punk scene? Why force-fit such a large number of artists into a vague "Post-Punk" category no-one dares to define clearly, instead of speaking of a broad post-Punk era? As we'll see, this last question also figures in any serious understanding of the concepts of Industrial and Electro, both of which emerged at the same time as Punk and overlapped with it extensively.

Alternate T V

The two essential books on Punk, Reynolds's Rip It Up and Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids, in comparison bring to a light a few other interesting points. First, when Heylin's was published in 1993, the term, "New Wave," still had currency and "Post-Punk" lacked its new, narrower meaning. After all, the original subtitle of the book was A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World (since he focuses on the development of U.S Punk and its predecessors); in other words, the phrase post-Punk means what it should: after Punk—any artist for whom Punk figured in some way in their musical education, in formulating their aesthetic identity. Certainly, some popular-music artists create music as if Punk and its direct off-shoots never existed (Stevie Ray Vaughn? Amy Grant?). Nonetheless, the term denotes a bewildering array of artists across massive chunks of time and space. Heylin deserves praise for directly addressing the controversial question of Punk's origins. Though he obviously prefers the best of the U.S artists discussed in his book [Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell] which in addition to a minutely-detailed history of the New York scene, including No Wave, also discusses the Cleveland and Akron scenes that birthed Pere Ubu and Devo, respectively, he also differs sharply from the nationalist U S critique of British Punk. In contrast to, say, Legs McNeil, co-editor of Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History of Punk and recipient of some sharp (justified) retorts from Heylin, who argues that the British Punks were pale imitations of New York Punk, Heylin notes that the early U.K Punk acts initially developed their music without having heard their fellow Punks across the Atlantic. While he repeatedly notes that, yes, the New York artists came first ("Coming first and leading the way ain't necessarily the same thing," he says in the Postlude to the 2005 reissue of the book, now subtitled The Birth of American Punk Rock) Heylin does not hesitate to describe their shortcomings, especially the "bam-a-lam brigade" of The Ramones, The Dead Boys, and Johnny Thunders, who failed to "scale the heights of the eponymous Clash debut or the Pistols' Spunk recordings, and anyone suggesting otherwise is either disingenuous or plain deaf."

Those who demur from my description of the dismissals of British Punk by certain Americans as "nationalist" should consider another revealing portion of Heylin's 2005 Postlude. He shows how Danny Fields, Ramones manager, as well as several other self-proclaimed Rock historians, have asserted that members of the leading British Punk acts attended a Ramones gig at the Roundhouse, London, on 4 July 1976—the bicentennial, no less! In fact, members of The Sex Pistols and The Clash, and undoubtedly numerous other musicians, did see The Ramones the next night, and the band's epochal debut L.P would significantly influence British Punk. More importantly, though, these jingoist commentators claimed that the British Punks didn't know what kind of music they were going to make, or even hadn't formed their bands yet, before the legendary concert. But as Heylin explains, The Clash and The Sex Pistols had already formed (they were sharing a bill on 4 July up in Sheffield). As Heylin has gone on to explain in Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge [2007], a sort of sequel to From the Velvets to the Voidoids, British Punk as it manifested itself in 1976 had been developing for years; and moreover, The Ramones didn't exactly have a positive influence, for the most part compelling bands to speed up—rhythmically, socially. The kinds of intellectual stunts being pulled by these "patriotic" Americans are simply embarrassing; one has difficulty imagining such idiocy coming from Britons regarding "their" music, or Japanese, or Germans, and so on—though, as argued above, to some extent this xenophobic attitude has begun to dissipate in the last fifteen years or so.

Earlier, I posited John Lydon as Britain's Elvis; but the U.S experienced an explosion of new bands comparable to British Punk with its second wave of Rock, in the 1960's, directly inspired by the "British Invasion" acts. So, while Lydon serves as a singular starting-point, a lodestar/ savior comparable to Elvis, the revolution he engendered compares to that launched by The Beatles. Heylin sympathizes with the resentment New York Punks might've felt toward British artists who got more attention and more money. The problem, though, is larger: an inability of Americans to come to terms with a fundamental aspect of Rock history: though much of the great popular music of the Twentieth Century originated in the U.S, England from 1963 on served as the center of the action, its artists often the culmination of decades of aesthetic development. Only with the beginning of a true post-Rock era in the later half of the 1990's (a transformation in which the bands labeled "Post-Rock" only played a tiny role) did it lose this position.

Reynolds's book does tend toward British artists, but he includes the U.S artists needed for the "Post-Punk" thesis, though ultimately not viable, to seem like it holds together. Suicide and Talking Heads, the No Wave bands, Pere Ubu and Devo, and—of especial notice—a chapter on San Francisco. Heylin's own focus on the origins of U.S Punk presumably led him to put the Los Angeles and San Francisco scenes aside. Reynolds offers a great overview of the Industrial-leaning, decidedly-experimental San Francisco groups: The Residents, Tuxedomoon, Factrix, Chrome, and Flipper, though oddly ignoring Negativland. [The serious listener should also make note of the Australia and Germany portions of the second part of the book's discography, only available online; ideally, in a reissue years from now, enough information regarding the varied scenes of those nations will have been uncovered to warrant new chapters.] One only needs minimal listening experience with the bands in question to get the point: Suicide and Talking Heads deviate from simple Punk in a manner quite distinct from the Rock explorations of Patti Smith, Blondie, and Television (even if, as noted above, they still get called Punk). Pere Ubu and Devo make the cut, but The Wipers and M.X-80 Sound don't. As we'll see below, such categorizations might appeal to those working with stereotypes and first impressions of Punk, especially British Punk; looking further into the "Post-Punk" conundrum, though, leads us toward a different conclusion.

Joy Division

What we might call "Post-Punk" responded to the perceived failure of Punk in 1976-1977. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, finally released late in 1977 after such dramatic controversy, was a let-down, a big Rock production that suggested little had changed. As Reynolds puts it, "Many of the movement's original participants felt that something open-ended and full of possibilities had degenerated into a commercial formula. Worse, it had provided a rejuvenating shot in the arm to the established record industry that the punks had hoped to overthrow." The two other flagship Punk acts, The Clash and The Damned, signed to major labels; though they didn't release records as disappointing as Bollocks, they certainly had some as dull (especially the second Clash album, Give 'Em Enough Rope, which suggested they were going down the same path the Pistols had taken, and which thankfully turned out to be an aberration). Along with other high-selling Punk acts like The Stranglers and The Vibrators, The Damned and especially The Clash fit in well enough with "New Wave," the term industry higher-ups preferred, wary as they were of the violent associations of the word, punk. Few would doubt the differences between The Only Ones and The Tom Robinson Band (signed by E.M.I after they infamously dropped The Sex Pistols) but they also wouldn't fail to notice that the differences were not great. In other words, The Only Ones (or Wreckless Eric or The Undertones) might've been good, and Tom Robinson not good, but the quality difference here didn't suggest a larger revolution in the way music was made or thought of—what music did and what was done to it.

No surprise then, considering the remarkable range of artists of the time who did take a radicalizing perspective, who seem worlds away from the likes of Tom Petty or The Police, that post-Punk became an acceptable journalistic shorthand to refer to artists who emerged in the aftermath of Punk, who indeed were directly impelled by Punk's challenge, but who didn't fit within either stereotypical Punk or the "New Wave" sound as defined by record labels, radio stations, etc. Money may not determine everything in popular music, but it certainly delineates things, puts artists in their "place," so to speak. The Clash, The Stranglers... they made money, they were publicized, they were Punk (despite also, maybe, being "New Wave"). Wire? The Fall? Sure, they had the Punk sound, sort of... but they would not get the privilege of deciding what the term overall meant, and what aesthetics that meaning allowed.

Still, in both journalism and business (and especially journalism-as-business) shorthand quickly takes on a meaning of its own, too far removed from what it originally described. No matter that Reynolds avoids explicitly stating if post-Punk is indeed merely an era (whether the 1978-1984 period he uses, or something longer, perhaps still ongoing) or if it is indeed "Post-Punk"... he can't escape the confusion created by the term. The problematic division between Punk and "Post-Punk" rings clear at several instances in his book.

First, Reynolds emphasizes the massive influence of Spiral Scratch, the debut Buzzcocks E.P, especially in that it was released on their label, New Hormones. Not only is Buzzcocks very nearly a standard-bearer for straight-up Punk Rock, Spiral Scratch also came out in January, 1977. Though the disappointment of late 1977-early 1978 impelled many of the post-Punk artists, apparently the excitement of 1976-early 1977 did as well. That is, no matter how aesthetically limited the simple Punk model was, it positively affected those who chose to experiment with, or reject, Rock. After all, those who made music and launched record labels probably didn't waste much mental energy on disillusionment over a group as disorganized as The Sex Pistols (though perhaps Lydon himself did); they were busily working on their own projects. Indeed, the two key Sex Pistols tracks, "Anarchy in the U.K" and "God Save the Queen," and the astounding image of Lydon's Johnny Rotten persona, gave plenty of young artists enough impetus to get to work; no further prodding was needed. (Lydon's performance was powerful enough to overtake his personality, a feat only previously pulled off by Bob Dylan, despite the many Rock artists who similarly took on new names.)

After the epochal Spiral Scratch, The Desperate Bicycles are the other factor Reynolds highlights in the "Autonomy in the U.K" chapter. This group's music offers a clear glimpse of two important aspects of any attempt to delineate a certain "Post-Punk." First, the unwavering preference for independent labels (The Buzzcocks after Spiral Scratch went with a major, so that one doesn't have to dwell too long on the "Post-Punk" relevance of such a Punk band). Second, the sound of the electric guitars. These seminal tracks like "The Medium Is Tedium" avoided "the 'fat' guitar sound of conventional Punk production." Reynolds does go on to state, "For the Desperate Bicycles, it was as though sloppiness and scrawniness became signs of membership in the true punk elect. The very deficiency of traditional Rock virtues—tightness, feel—stood as tokens of the group's authenticity and purity of intent." But this description sounds a lot like a group striving to live up to the ideals of Punk, on their own terms, not responding to others' failure. Later, discussing Swell Maps [another group like those noted above who pre-date Punk itself, though only privately, similar to Cabaret Voltaire; both groups debuted in 1978 after years of preparation] Reynolds says, "Along with their pals The Television Personalities, Swell Maps invented a strand of post-Punk that made a fetish of naivety. Weak vocals and shaky rhythms, rudimentary droning basslines and fast-strummed dischords: the D.I.Y bands reveled in the noise-generating potential of the guitar, but they didn't exactly rock and they certainly didn't roll. For believers, much more than the 'sped-up Heavy Metal' that was first-wave Punk, this was the true realization of the here's-three-chords, now-start-a-band ethos." So then, it's the second wave of Punk? True, genuine Punk, or indeed post-Punk (though not necessarily), but hardly "Post-Punk"—not something wanting desperately to be separate and new. Again, the term, given too much of a concrete place in time, falls apart.

Gang of Four

Lydon's post-Sex Pistols project, Public Image Ltd., which began as a genuine collaboration with guitarist Levene and bassist Wobble, serves a crucial role in any conceptualization of "Post-Punk." Metal Box, the group's second album and absolute pinnacle, is a unique accomplishment though, not even comparable to the best albums made by other groups looking to Dub Reggae for methods (that is: debut albums from The Pop Group (Y) and The Slits (Cut), both also released in 1979) let alone other "Post-Punk" music. One could see it as the result of a Rock band deciding to make a Dub record—not incorporate Dub methods, but to make a full-on Dub record, or at least as close as a non-Reggae artist could get. As Reynolds put it, "What's striking about the record is how PiL assimilated both the dread feel of Roots Reggae and the Dub aesthetic of subtraction (stripping out instruments, using empty space) without ever resorting to obviously dubby production effects like reverb and echo." With his vocal performances on nearly all the album's tracks, Lydon lived up to the promise made by the best Sex Pistols songs and the first Public Image record. Few have sung with such abandon, such fervor—such freedom. Arguably, not even the best singers of the post-Punk era (Ian Curtis, Mark E Smith, Morrissey, David Thomas, Diamanda Galás, Michael Stipe) have performed with the intensity heard on "Swan Lake" or "Memories." Reynolds notes the album's initial packaging, as three 12-inch 45's crammed into a canister, and how it made the discs difficult for listeners to access physically; and that it split the record into six parts, instead of the four of a double L.P, encouraging the listener to concoct their own trackings. Moreover, the entire album, sonically speaking, is sharply grating, purposely designed to meet the artists' needs, not the listener's. Of course, all art does as such; the question is whether the artist projects his awareness of this inherent condition. Skilled musicians performing well-rehearsed music create enough pleasure for both themselves and the audience that they can put the matter aside. Others do better not to hide behind rote gestures and stock forms stolen from others. The particular deconstructive Dub approach to Rock that Lydon, Levene, and Wobble [and Richard Dudanski, the drummer on most of the tracks] employed on Metal Box—preferring improvisation, or barely-rehearsed takes; relying on minimalist structures to take up time and space; re-working half-baked ideas until they come to seem complete—gives the listener a peek into the process, implicates them in the conceptualization, invites them to become patrons instead of consumers.

As for Public Image Ltd. being "Post-Punk," and especially a starting point, further reservations arise. Reynolds recounts the oft-told story of "The Punk and His Music," a radio special in July, 1977, wherein Lydon was interviewed and chose the musical selections. Lydon made clear he was disappointed by Punk music so far, and pissed off Malcolm McLaren by picking artists held in considerable respect by the old guard of progressive and art Rock: not just artists we'd expect, like Lou Reed, John Cale, Captain Beefheart, and some Dub Reggae for good measure, but some surprises as well: The Third Ear Band, Tim Buckley, Peter Hammill. This now-mythical broadcast clearly provides fodder for the notion of a "Post-Punk" both directly tied to Punk itself, but also decidedly opposed to it. But given that Lydon expressed appreciation for artists who still, thirty years later, are not considered pre-Punk or influential on any "Post-Punk" artist, we could just as well use Lydon's choices as a rationale for rejecting the concept of Punk itself. If Lydon, bestowed with the position to pronounce judgments upon the rest of Punk at his, and its, peak of renown and infamy, couldn't dispel the simplistic image of Punk as rudimentary fast-paced heavy Rock made by physically-assaultive young goons, then either reject the term, or keep insisting upon an enlightened expanded understanding. Certainly don't bandy around a vague concept like "Post-Punk" as if such a thing could really adequately describe such a diverse range of remarkable artists.

Then there's the matter of later PiL, after Keith Levene left the group during sessions for what became This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get [1984] (Jah Wobble had already left before the third album, The Flowers of Romance [1981]). Now consisting of whomever was playing with Lydon (the touring band generally differing from those who played in the studio) PiL ended up where one could imagine The Sex Pistols would've if they too had lasted into the early 1990's. Since Lydon is important to the definition of "Post-Punk" as well as Punk, both conceptualizations rely upon him; they owe him a large debt—a pay-back, you could say, for all the abuse thrown his way. Punk repaid via lawsuits and reunion tours; "Post-Punk" has little to offer, suggesting again its lack of an independent status whatsoever. Reynolds acknowledges Lydon's later failures ("renegading on absolutely everything PiL represented") leading the reader into the second part of the book, years of cultural divergence, when the U.S dynamic of commerce-versus-the underground—and guitars-versus-electronics—crossed the Atlantic. In other words, when the "Post-Punk" revolution came to naught. But again we ask, are we not actually speaking of Punk?

The Leeds bands (Gang of Four, The Mekons, Delta 5 and, by way of Birmingham, The Au Pairs) further make us ponder why "Post-Punk" is not simply Punk. At least in this case the chronology fits. The first Gang of Four single ("Damaged Goods") and the first Mekons single ("Never Been in a Riot") both came in early 1978, on the heels of Lydon abandoning The Sex Pistols; the former introduced the prototypical "Post-Punk" sound while the latter offers a perspective contrary to the confrontational raison d'être of stereotypical Punk. However, encouraged by Bob Last, head of the Edinburgh-based Fast Product label that released the two singles, both bands signed to major labels. Also, Gang of Four did not, then or now, stick with the cramped spaces and brittle textures of their epochal debut album, Entertainment! [1979]. Reynolds again provides the evidence undermining a clear notion of "Post-Punk" by noting the Rockist sound of their second album, Solid Gold [1981], and the band's reservations about Entertainment! not capturing the way the group sounded in concert, which more than 25 years later led them, disastrously, to re-record some of the album's songs, even as their excellent reunion performances surely rendered such recordings unnecessary.

Wire would get more attention in a study focusing on the muddy nature of Punk than one on "Post-Punk": the group beat a path away from the simpler mode of Punk toward some of the "Post-Punk" methods with seemingly-effortless finesse, as if it was the only appropriate course to take, the logical result of Punk's negationism. One striking characteristic: Colin Newman often sang songs written by Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert—or, we should say, took words and made them into songs. Though he wrote some of the lyrics and played some guitar, overall he was the vocalist—the vocalist only. He was an anomaly in Punk, in most Rock music, Roger Daltry of The Who being another; though the complexity of the band's approach to lyrics suggests Blue Öyster Cult. Of course, singers who do songs written by others not in their band are as old as popular music itself, Elvis Presley being the exception that proves the rule with regard to Rock. Other facets of the group's development, especially on Chairs Missing [1978] and 154 [1979] [the band's debut, Pink Flag [1977], contrary to the critique noted above, is the odd one out], are all discussed by Reynolds, most of all producer Mike Thorne's increased role. Unfortunately, he puts them in a chapter with Talking Heads, highlighting their art-school origins, taking them out of context: a Punk band, according to nearly every description you would've read until recently, on a major label, who pointedly tried to leave Punk, and Rock, behind, insisting—as Lydon did with regard to PiL—that doing so was in fact the Punk thing to do.

If Wire is de-emphasized, Scritti Politti looms large in any "Post-Punk" vision, their ability to command the attention of critics being considerably greater than their musical import, given that the early trio produced so little. Only those early recordings figure in the "Post-Punk" story; though, in Reynolds's book, they return in the era of "New Pop" and the "New Romantic," where again they ended up also-rans, talking too much. Granted, at first, they certainly captivated. The band's debut 45 "Skank Bloc Bologna" [1978], and the subsequent 4 A Sides E.P [1979], go farther than The Desperate Bicycles or Young Marble Giants in developing a style defined by loose rhythms, light textures, untrained conversational vocals, and in general a dreadfully-serious, but playful, sense of purpose. The band's later shift toward the anti-Punk "pop" of the new decade serves a crucial cohesive purpose for Reynolds's book, but alas it could just as well do the opposite. Reynolds's verdict on the evolution of Green Gartside, as he rejected the collectivism of early Scritti Politti for an unabashed desire for fame and "pop" glory, is quite ambiguous—no outright claim of betrayal as with Lydon.

The chapter featuring Scritti Politti, "Messthetics" (the name of a song on the band's second E.P, Work in Progress) covers the "London vanguard," including also The Raincoats, This Heat, the expatriated Pere Ubu, Young Marble Giants, and a few groups based out of the London Musicians Collective (L.M.C), namely The Flying Lizards, The Lemon Kittens, and The Door and the Window. A few matters come to the fore here. First of all, the second Raincoats album, Odyshape [1981], ranks among the greatest artistic feats in British music of the time, alongside Metal Box and the best tracks by Joy Division and The Fall. Second, Pere Ubu moved quickly and not always methodically. The Modern Dance and Dub Housing [both 1978], as well as their early singles, certainly suggest a movement from Punk outward; but they also emerged from the particular Cleveland scene, and the U.S mindset wherein Punk served as more of a refinement, or an attenuation, of outsider Rock that preceded it. Those early records, for example, often feature a swinging Rock beat that suggests pre-Punk, not post. After the transitional New Picnic Time [1979], Pere Ubu became almost a different band, first with Mayo Thompson replacing Tom Herman on guitar, then Anton Fier replacing Scott Krauss on drums, all the while David Thomas pushing the band in experimentalist directions that didn't quite bode well for him, the two new members, or the two other members who remained (Allen Ravenstine and Tony Maimone). So, is this "Post-Punk" or was the first Pere Ubu? As for PiL, we could ask if "Public Image" and other relatively-Rock tracks were "Post-Punk," or only what came after the debut album.

The section on Scritti Politti, as with Reynolds's overview of Gang of Four, emphasizes the intense, thoroughgoing debates band members engaged in—about the music, presenting and publishing the music, and ultimately about the language used to engage in such debates at all. However, connections drawn to philosophy and to other artists who partake in self-referential analysis are tenuous. Gang of Four's "Love Like Anthrax" features double-tracked vocals, Jon King's lovelorn lyrics coupled with guitarist Andy Gill's listing of details about the recording itself; and thus we get comparisons to Jean-Luc Godard, namely the "deliberately exposed means of production," regardless that much of the band's music does not employ such strategies. Politti at least pursued live improvisation, breaking apart their songs quite literally or even composing new pieces on the spot. As for political content, Reynolds rightly notes that both "Scritti Politti and Gang of Four abandoned tell-it-like-it-is denunciation for songs that exposed and dramatized the mechanisms of power in everyday life: consumerism, sexual relationships, common-sense notions of what's natural or 'obvious', the ways in which seemingly spontaneous, innermost feelings are actually scripted by larger forces." But when he contrasts their approach to the "plain-speaking demagoguery of overtly politicized groups like The Tom Robinson Band and Crass," referring of course to two groups never seen as leading lights of Punk, he has created nothing more than a straw man. The novice might think The Clash and Alternative T.V recited political pamphlets in place of lyrics. Indeed, The Clash, which presumably would serve as the best example of a Punk band compromised by its descent into (record-)business-as-usual and loutish sloganeering, nonetheless also talked a great deal among themselves about the "correct" way to proceed.

The L.M.C brings to light another line of thought considered below. For now, the relevant matter at hand is Mark Perry, leader of Alternative T V, founder/ editor of the Sniffin' Glue zine that was instrumental in defining and popularizing Punk, and a member of The Door and The Window. As Reynolds relates, Perry pushed Alternative T.V toward freely-improvising, anti-musicianist experimental music. Fans of the group's early singles and debut album, The Image Has Cracked [1978], reacted harshly, at times violently, leading Perry to abandon A T V for a new moniker, The Good Missionaries. Again, the crude protestations of roughneck fans of simple Punk give Reynolds a compelling "Post-Punk" story. But as with Lydon and the members of Wire, Perry saw the changes he implemented as a logical outgrowth of Punk. The relevant question again is: do the artists themselves, as well as the writers who engage in serious criticism, define the terms used to signify a movement? Or do commercial factors that enable the artists and scenes to make sense in larger contexts? After all, Perry and other artists who got started in 1976 in direct response to The Sex Pistols before the year was over were already making note of the limitations being placed upon artists by both journalists and fans too concerned with pontificating about Punk, not so concerned about doing anything creative.

Throbbing Gristle

To suggest how malleable these concepts are (and thus why we'd not care to bother with a drab, vague designation like "Post-Punk") let's consider Industrial as an alternative to Punk. No, I don't mean to favor the music we commonly call Industrial and reject that designated as Punk. I'm suggesting we could use Industrial, as its creators defined it, as the prevailing defining term of the era instead of Punk. That is: what if Punk, or all Rock music, was called Industrial? We know, first, that the makers and listeners of Rock have been "industrial people," to use Throbbing Gristle's term. And, following Einstürzende Neubaten, they make music that reflects their particular genealogical/ ethnic background. Obviously Essential Logic, say, or Josef K or Big in Japan made music closer to European Classical, or varied folk, traditions; unlike the Industrial acts, they did not employ "found," or homemade, percussion instruments or experiment much with electronics. But they at least reside not far away on the spectrum, the electric guitar obviously being decisive, not just in Rock but in other popular musics that similarly emerged with migration to urban areas, cultural imperialism, and technological progress (Reggae, Tropic&#aacute;lia, Juju and Afro Beat, Filmi, Group Sounds). Other "Post-Punk" artists like Joy Division and PiL are considerably closer. The Dub influence at the heart of post-Punk groups like PiL or The Pop Group suggests the saliency of Industrial as a descriptive device, not as a genre. If we can understand Dub as a process of deconstruction, with the artists in question moving easily between Dub and non-Dub, why not Industrial? Given that Reynolds describes the music of Pere Ubu and Devo as a response to the rotting industrial cores of the Western world, perhaps we could delineate certain other musical facets as Industrial. Therefore, does the use of synthesizers in a non-Electro manner—looking back to electro-acoustic pioneers, academic explorers, instead of forward to the digital future—as with the work of Allen Ravenstine, mean that Pere Ubu traversed the terrain from Rock to Industrial and back, sometimes in the course of a single track? More obviously, others utilized both Electro and Industrial styles, especially Fad Gadget, Psychic T V, Soft Cell, and Depeche Mode.

Indeed, Electro [that is, "Synth Pop" or "New Romantic"—I obviously prefer the generalized, popular use of the term instead of the specific reference to the New York music commonly called Electro] presents further problems for "Post-Punk." Over the course of several chapters in the book's second half, Reynolds provides an excellent account of the rise to prominence of electronic pop music, and the concomitant "New Pop," from, roughly speaking, Gary Numan in 1979 to Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1984. The major Electro artists did not hold much interest in Punk Rock (whether its success or failure) certainly not compared to the music of Kraftwerk or David Bowie. The four albums Bowie worked on in 1976-1977 (his own Low and "Heroes" plus Iggy Pop's The Idiot and Lust for Life, all released in '77) alongside the work of Brian Eno both in that period and before, and Kraftwerk, serve as an alternate benchmark, an altogether-different revolution occurring at the same time as Punk. Reynolds rightly discusses this alternate starting point in his Prologue, though confusingly so: "in truth post-punk music was far more deeply affected by the four Bowie-related albums"; and even that "1977's most significant singles weren't 'White Riot' or 'God Save the Queen'" but instead Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' and Kraftwerk's 'Trans-Europe Express.'" Again, for Electro, and probably Industrial, both statements ring true. But, for the rest, this pronouncement is either false or "Post-Punk"/ post-Punk is at best only a partially-appropriate signifier for the music under Reynolds's review (rather, both of these choices work, considering the diversity of artists discussed; most readers could go through the book, easily deciding where each artist discussed would fall in this odd Rotten-Summer binary). Though, as I suggested above, Reynolds largely avoids the circumscribed mindset of those who bandy the "Post-Punk" term around much like they do the word, "pop" (in such cases conceiving of "pop" music like it's the high school they went to) nonetheless, with this one statement, he unwittingly captures the zealousness with which many contemporary Indie fans strain to show their appreciation for electronic and/ or dance music, and their snide disapproval of supposed-Rockist art, and Rock history. Put aside for a moment the fact that hostility to electronics barely factored in Punk's origin, no matter whose history you're reading, therefore negating the argument that Electro music somehow is post Punk. If "Post-Punk" is going to have a definite non-Rock cast, its adherents should ask why even Industrial and Electro bands ended up working with the same cultural and professional space occupied by Rock acts, Depeche Mode most obviously.

As for the Industrial tag being less of a genre, more of a description, this essay demands the same usage for Punk. The attempt to relegate Punk, as the relevant event in popular music, to only the years 1976-1977 conforms awfully comfortably to teleological understandings of art history, with avant-gardes supplanting avant-gardes, tradition persistently uprooted for the sake of progress toward an illusory final liberation of the artist. The visual arts thankfully have moved away from such conceptions, though societal pressures to engage in new, "theory"-backed amalgamations of technique and ideas obviously remain strong. Popular music, in comparison, allows its participants a post-Modernist freedom to choose among any style or method, no matter how outmoded or reactionary they may seem. That is to say, we should not fret over whether Wire or Pere Ubu are Punk or not; they can be Punk in addition to somethings else. Possibly one could argue that Punk occupies a place in popular-music history akin to, say, Impressionism in the visual arts, or any movement that seems stuck in a certain time, having played the limited role deigned for it by the godhead progress. In other words, a significant Punk band arising in the Twentieth-First Century is about as likely as a major Impressionist painter coming of age in the 1920's. However, the temporal reach Punk did have—until the early 1990's—already deflates such an argument.

Besides, histories like so don't work for pop music; its role in any workable broad history of modern art is post-Modernist. Here, we specifically draw upon Bernard Gendron's Between Montmarte to the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde [2002]. Besides a chapter on the early development of the idea of Punk Rock by Bangs and other writers, a narrative Gendron tells better than any other, the book also makes a valuable contribution in its discussion of Bebop. Despite its Modernist position within the development of Jazz, Bebop represented popular-music artists deciding for themselves that their work deserved the status of art, accepting both the challenges and prestige that came with such a change. Prior to Bebop, Gendron argues, popular music was the object of condescending attention from the denizens of "high" art; the Bebop artists pulled a switcheroo, becoming artful on their own terms, forever changing the nature of art in the industrialized world, and thus serving as the beginning of the post-Modernist age in music. Gendron goes on to show how Punk artists pulled off a similar maneuver with regard to Rock.

Punk did not supplant Rock though; and in this continued existence within the larger Rock realm, comparable to Bebop's own position vis-a-vis Jazz, Punk denies "Post-Punk" the freedom from Rock often associated with it. Certainly, with Industrial and other genuine radicals coming out of the Punk era, non-Rock music came to the fore as it had not since the early 1960's, when the Folk revival was going strong and Jazz still enjoyed some of the mainstream appreciation it had attained in the 1950's. In this way, the comparisons between Punk and Free Jazz, the revolution that built upon Bebop's—comparisons one is more likely to see in analyses of pre-/ proto-Punk—seem more apt. Still the similar trajectories of Jazz and Rock come to bear. Free Jazz/ Improvised artists who maintained meaningful links to the Jazz tradition were forced to defend themselves against Bebop traditionalists and, more generally, engrained restrictions regarding what constitutes Jazz. Meanwhile, artists in the Punk era who honestly, proactively worked with their Rock lineage increasingly found it hard to position themselves as innovative artists, in part because of automatic negative connotations of Rock, but also because they had difficulty responding aesthetically to all the music arising that was indeed non-, or post-, Rock.

Throbbing Gristle's earlier origins relative to other "Post-Punk" groups, and the very notion of pre-Punk, bring to mind a few other key points. The band's earlier history as COUM Transmissions certainly gives Industrial direct roots in post-1968 hippie fringe cultures. But the well-developed history of pre-Punk grants Punk connections to the "Sixties" nearly as direct as Throbbing Gristle's, such as with Lenny Kaye compiling the first Nuggets compilation not long before he first performed with Patti Smith. The Residents were but one of many artists who bridged the gap between 1960's radical Rock and 1970's Punk; Reynolds obviously brings up Mayo Thompson's Red Krayola, rebirthed in London with Thompson joined by Gina Birch of The Raincoats, Lora Logic of Essential Logic, and Epic Soundtracks of Swell Maps, among others (Besides the aforementioned Pere Ubu membership, Thompson also co-produced many classic Rough Trade releases with Geoff Travis, founder of the label). Ensembles like Smegma, The Doo-Dooettes, and Le Forte Four assembled under the Los Angeles Free Music Society (L.A.F.M.S) beginning in the 1970's, and would continue paying little heed to popular-music trends to the present, with new groupings like Solid Eye and Extended Organ signing on. Along with The Residents, we could see the L.A.F.M.S as the proper ancestors of the "Isolationism" of Pacific-coast experimentalists Caroliner Rainbow, Sun City Girls, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, and Climax Golden Twins. As for those artists associated with the L M C... for all their catholic tastes and Punk dabbling, nonetheless remained firmly ensconced within the Improvised/ experimental realm, with its origins in Free Jazz and the post-Classical avant garde. As we already saw with Lydon's Capital Radio program, these links to the pre-Punk past, as copious and diverse as they are, suggest we could void the very notion of pre-Punk, or post-Punk, and dismiss the wider relevance of Punk, letting the "mohicans" [for some reason or other, this term for those sporting the mohawk haircut is commonly used among Britons and not at all by Americans, reminding me of the hippy-hippie spelling discrepancy] have their dum dum Rock, and reposition the likes of Wire, The Raincoats, PiL, Joy Division, et al., as part of a larger, longer tradition. This approach is not favored by this writer, but it at least would work more effectively than "Post-Punk."

To return again to the issue of Industrial music as "Post-Punk"... the Sheffield scene serves as a crucial part of the narrative, but its artists largely ended up grouped into the Industrial and Electro realms. Cabaret Voltaire, as noted above, was already hard at work well before Punk, the results of which were finally released as Methodology '74/'78. Attic Tapes; [2003]. While another Sheffield group, Clock D.V.A, embraced their connections with Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire had the Industrial tag applied to them. They may've been as excited as the members of The Human League and The Cosmat Angels, both also from Sheffield, about Bowie's Berlin records and Kraftwerk, but as Reynolds reports they also responded positively to Punk, with Richard H Kirk taking on more guitar duties. Finally, prompted by Stevo, notorious head of the Some Bizarre label that struck it big with Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," the Cabs eventually embraced the "New Pop" ethos as well, with Stephen Mallinder staking his claim as a standard singer-frontman.

The Fall

Reynolds rightly points out the "astonishing experimentation with lyrical and vocal technique" of the post-Punk period, but, as with the issue of independent labels or electric-guitar methods, certain bands we'd used to define a certain "Post-Punk" featured singers whose styles reside closer to the Punk stereotype: The Desperate Bicycles, Gang of Four, Wire. As for those who do get experimentalist credit, Mark E Smith of The Fall stands out; however, in his vocals if not in their literary content, Smith prolifically, and determinedly, explored the aesthetic space suggested by Punk, especially by Lydon. The connection was noted sardonically by Smith himself: "They say I rip off Johnny Rotten." On their debut L.P, Live at the Witch Trials, The Fall's methods were quite Rock-oriented compared to the sound they would perfect at numerous sublime moments over the course of the next seven years (producing a body of work unmatched by their contemporaries in its combination of depth and quality: Dragnet [1979], Grotesque (After the Gramme) [1980], Slates [1981], Hex Enduction Hour [1982], Room to Live (Undiluteable Slang Truth) [1982], Perverted by Language [1983], The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall [1984], This Nation's Saving Grace [1985], and Bend Sinister [1986]). Smith's vocal trademarks—the slurring of words, the blurring of the singing-speaking divide, the submission demanded of other musicians—all suggest the presence of a singer who, in a non-Punk world, wouldn't have fronted a band at all. The ostensible sloppiness of Smith's vocals, and The Fall's overall sound, brings to mind the shambolic likes of The Desperate Bicycles or Scritti Politti, but The Fall remained by comparison a heavier, Rockist band, at times loud, angry, and aggressive. As Reynolds describes in his chapter on the Liverpool scene, The Fall were hugely influential on Echo and The Bunnymen, Wah! Heat, and The Teardrop Explodes as they all attempted a new kind of post-Punk, neo-Psychedelic Rock. Despite the recurrent turns toward electronics in The Fall's later years (Code: Selfish, Levitate) at their peak The Fall undoubtedly came off as hold-outs, keepers of the flame so to speak.

That said, Reynolds's chapter on the Manchester scene gives the clearest picture of a post-Punk, or non-Punk, music that's still inexorably part of the Punk era—appropriately, given the status Manchester attained as a second center, a Northern center joining London in the South, of British popular music. Joy Division and The Fall of course don't deserve to be pinned down by any Punk categorization, especially the former; the distance between Warsaw and Joy Division, not the latter's origin in the former, is the story that captivates, even if one sees Martin Hammett as a negative influence on the band's evolution. Any attempt to cordon them off into a sub-grouping with other bands is similarly flawed. Joy Division, along with Siouxsie and The Banshees, may have spawned the entire "Goth" movement, but few of said artists and their devoted followers would risk the opprobrium that would come their way if they defined Ian Curtis and co. in such a frivolous manner. Joy Division looked to the Bowie, and Iggy, Berlin records, but not necessarily to Kraftwerk. Mark E Smith didn't just dispel the notion he was imitating Lydon; he also looked to the example of pre-Punk bands like Can and his favorite "Garage" bands—the original Punk—while avoiding the traditionalism of others who had the same perspective. In short, we have here artists who were directly inspired by The Sex Pistols, but who potentially didn't require the spark. A conceivable alternate history then: artists who already wanted the kind of transformation of Rock that Lydon and McLaren envisioned, even if they weren't yet actively working for it; who recognized quickly that the Pistols and other rudimentary Punkers could not bring such a sea change, and thus got to work.

Let's consider this difference in a different, imaginary context. A young woman wants to write and publish poetry in a city whose inhabitants have for many years mostly read novels; poetry is for them like a rich dessert, fiction a cheeseburger. The young woman riles away her time reading poetry, not inspired to write her own, knowing no-one would care. Then, suddenly, a young male poet becomes a sensation in the city; his chapbooks are selling like crazy. The young woman thinks the poet is good but doesn't have too much to offer, is somewhat of a showboat; but at least now she sees her opportunity: her reading public. Meanwhile, other young men and women first learn about poetry from the young sensation; they'd thought that literature meant long novels written in bland prose read by housewives. Now... back to music, Britain, the late 1970's: the poet-sensation is John Lydon, the young woman is Mark E Smith or the members of The Raincoats and Joy Division, the other young poets are most Punk, and "Post-Punk," acts.

In short, the Manchester scene doesn't fit very neatly into any sort of narrative that gives primacy to stereotypical Punk, at least giving one positive reason why the "Post-Punk" tag has come into such excessive use. The same could be said of Sheffield; the bands of these northern cities, like those of New York and San Francisco, and of the German scenes (Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg), were far-enough removed from the London epicenter of Punk—geographically, aesthetically, what-have-you—to possess a undeniable independence, even as they pursued methods and ideas shared by the likes of Lydon, Perry, etc. The Australian scenes (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) in contrast might reside closer to London (or Leeds) in this sense: the original Punk of Radio Birdman and The Saints not so clearly transcended or rejected, even as it was not directly influential on several important "Post-Punk" artists of their nation. However, this dynamic only partially helps the "Post-Punk" argument, as we've shown. Many of these northerners and Americans and Germans were directly inspired by The Sex Pistols and other early Punk groups; and, more important, nearly all found themselves compared to them, defined by their relation to the London norm. After all, the story of The Sex Pistols first playing in Manchester, at a show put on by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto of Buzzcocks, attended by members of The Fall and Joy Division, is perhaps the best, clearest example of the extraordinary quick effect Lydon and co. had upon their compatriots. The latter half of 1976 saw The Damned, The Clash, Subway Sect, and Buzzcocks all get their acts together after seeing The Sex Pistols do the same; a host of others followed suit in early 1977. Moreover, as Heylin describes, the New Yorkers and other U.S artists were pushed into a new framework established by British Punk. That is, instead of straining to chip away at the Punk category by stealing some of its "Post" artists, we might more accurately put Electro and Industrial into the Punk category. Again, the use of the term, "Post-Punk," in such a way that it often seems like a nice way of saying "Anti-Punk," necessarily comes back to Punk. After all, if Punk lacks such a prominent position, why would 23 Skidoo and Test Dept. (and A.B.C and The Associates...) feature in a book whose central motif remains Punk?

Siouxsie and the Banshees

To turn to the issue broached by The Fall's influence upon the Liverpool bands—the question of "Post-Punk" and its relationship not just to Punk but to Rock generally—a few questions linger. Do guitarists Keith Levene of PiL, John McGeoch of Magazine, Bernard Sumner of Joy Division, and Tom Herman of Pere Ubu have more in common with the minimally-amplified guitar methods (generally described as dry, thin, and scratchy) heard in The Desperate Bicycles, Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, early Scritti Politti, and The Slits, than they do with the heavier, Rockist styles of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones? Maybe... either way, they differ from the stereotypical Punk guitar sound in a different way that Reynolds fails to emphasize. Granted, one of the underlying developments within Rock music of the Punk era led guitarists away from the heavier, densely-textured sounds of Heavy Metal and Psychedelia toward the methods exemplified in the next decade by The Edge of U.2 and Johnny Marr of The Smiths: structural complexity as much a factor as timbre, with a preference for "clean" precise tones and an extensive use of over-lapping parts intricately laced together by the single multi-tracked guitarist. For the bands marked by this "Eighties" guitar sound (see also The Go-Betweens, Orange Juice, early R.E.M) Punk's failure to distance itself enough from Rock norms certainly registered. The guitarists mentioned above at times pointed in this direction, especially Sumner once New Order developed its recognizable sound with their second L.P, Power, Corruption and Lies [1983]. But at other times they certainly did not, and we'd do better to group them with Neil Young or the No Wave bands or, looking further on, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo.

Since the notion of a categorizable "Post-Punk" rests to a great extent on the danceability of the music relative to Punk, a few words need to be said about the rhythms found in several "Post-Punk" groups. As suggested at the outset of this essay, any categorizable "Post-Punk" tends toward percussion parts that exist in a persistent state of tension, enacting rhythms that could fall apart, or change tempo radically, at any moment, and are adorned with unpredictable flourishes. But of the countless groups of the time whom we could characterize as such, a sub-set featured drumming of a heavier, Rockist bent. Siouxsie and The Banshees, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Birthday Party, The Virgin Prunes... these groups, with their pounded beats and noisy guitar work (one could place the guitarists in question—Will Sergeant of The Bunnymen, Roland S Howard and Mick Harvey of The Birthday Party, John McKay and, later, McGeoch, having left Magazine, of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Dik Evans of The Virgin Prunes—in the same category as the guitarists noted above) figure in Reynolds's narrative, and in many other historical accounts, as part of either the "Goth" movement or the general return to Rockist sounds and attitudes also seen with the rise of U.2, Simple Minds, The Blue Orchids, The Cure, Aztec Camera, and so on. But they also had a greater connection aesthetically to Punk (especially, obviously The Banshees) thus again begging the question, have we left Punk's confines, or is the opposite in fact the case?

With such rerouting of the electric guitar and heavy, oft-complex Rock rhythms, thus suggesting the decidedly-Rock positioning of several "Post-Punk" artists, again we see that the anti-Rock currents running throughout the entire "Post-Punk" discussion represent a selective evaluation of the music in question. The reasoning appears valid: if Punk killed Rock, even if it was still Rock (again, an idea that Lydon initially helped put into circulation) and if certain music is beyond Punk even, then of course we're a safe distance from unseemly Rock. This nice set-up, though, is countered by the music itself. In the Twenty-First-Century cultural milieu, filled as it is with Rock-reared hipsters desperately trying to show how much they love any popular music that's not Rock, the very notion of "Post-Punk" of course serves what seems to be a social imperative and an intellectual—no, emotional—need. As already noted, Reynolds seems to fall prey to this kind of thinking (though, to be fair, he's also expressed misgivings about anti-Rock proselytizing getting out of hand). In his chapter on the Leeds scene, in addition to descriptions of Solid Gold Reynolds also mentions the surprising Rock influences behind Gang of Four's Funk-oriented "Post-Punk." But, similar to when he mentions Keith Levene's guitar-Rockist moves on the first PiL album, the presence of Rock is portrayed as an ironic aspect of the artists' concepts. In other words, Rock forms might get an artist tagged as Punk; but if the artist in question already bears the imprint of "Post-Punk," then they are seen to be already beyond Rock, free to appropriate anything they want without the guilt.

"Post-Punk" serves as a stand-in for the wish fulfillment that never came: the death of Rock. If The Sex Pistols et al. had actually killed Rock, shown it to be such a foolish game that no-one would dare make such music again, post-Punk would indeed have the post-apocalyptic cast some desire for it. Alas, it didn't, not even close. By defining certain artists as "Post-Punk," a certain canon is being developed, consisting of artists whose work fits the ideal of not being too Punk/ Rock, but also not too Electro either, or too mainstream generally. A cheap canonization results, that detracts from the particularity of the artists in question more than it enhances it, and which attempts to define Punk as failed endeavor that the artistically profound, the forward-looking, had no interest in after 1977. In fact, the ideals that will for time immemorial be associated with Punk, especially that of artists releasing their own music or having a close, non-hierarchical relationship with those who release it, and of amateurish/ primitivist methods serving as radicalizing tonic for those trying to avoid artistic routine, continue to foster much of the best experimental, and popular, music of the new century.

Pere Ubu

One way to rephrase the gist of this argument runs as such: Reynolds could extend the onus of Punk onto a few other groups (Gang of Four, The Desperate Bicycles, Wire, The Au Pairs, Delta 5, Subway Sect, early Mekons, Big in Japan, and to an lesser extent The Slits, early PiL, The Fall, early Raincoats, Magazine, and The Pop Group) and change the subtitle to "Non-Punk 1978-1984" or, more eloquently, "Non-Punk Music in the Punk Era"—something along those lines. That is, the book would directly work against Punk's dominance of historical understandings of the period in question. Alas, without the artists seen as too commercialized, too "New Wave," such a book would have to delve deep into the New York experimental/ Jazz scenes, British Improvised music, Hip Hop, and House, among other things.

From the other vantage point, meanwhile... we should note John Robb's Punk Rock: An Oral History [2006], which covers only British Punk, and moreover tends toward the simpler Punk—what both "Post-Punk" chatterers and Punk reactionaries both think of as the be-all and end-all of "Punk" itself. In other words, in Robb's book the likes of The Vibrators and The Stranglers still have an important role to play: in these times, quite a refreshing outlook. More importantly, since Robb accomplishes something more akin to From the Velvets to the Voidoids than to the oral histories of Punk scenes in Los Angeles (We Got the Neutron Bomb) and New York (Please Kill Me), he provides a useful starting point to a larger potential project: the reformulation of what Punk meant. The detailed descriptions, however piecemeal, of the development of The Clash, The Damned, Alternative T.V, and others obviously does a great deal to deflect crude generalizations about their music. Nonetheless, in the present cultural milieu, the release of Robb's book passed by with little fanfare.

An appropriate rejoinder to any revaluation of the word, Punk, would be a revival of the phrase, "New Wave." Not too long ago, the term still seemed useful. In the Preface of From the Velvets to the Voidoids, Heylin stated, "New Wave is [...] what punk became as influences became more disparate, musicianship improved, bands fragmented, new permutations emerged and record labels realized that punk was unmarketable. It was spawned from and influenced by its punk predecessors (and occasionally survivors). It also transcended the Atlantic divide. It took in everyone from the B-52s to the Bunnymen. In the New Wave ragbag can be included powerpop merchants like the Jam, the Police, and the Pretenders, British guitar/synth bands like Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Magazine, latter-day Wire, PiL and the Cure, ska revivalists like Madness and the Specials, thrash exponents like X and Black Flag, the no wave of D.N.A and the Contortions and a million other splinters of inspiration." In other words, "New Wave" (which Heylin oddly capitalizes despite not capitalizing Punk, "powerpop," Ska, or No Wave) is as open-ended and broad in scope as post-Punk, and moreover seemed to serve much the same function that the narrower "Post-Punk" does now. "New Wave" does warrant some respect for its inclusiveness. Whereas "Post-Punk," if we decide it's useful primarily because of the brief time-span of Punk, would presumably include all sorts of artists—say, Sham 69 or Dire Straits—but doesn't, of course, as its adherents also cling to an aesthetic dimension similar to the loose definition provided earlier in this essay, only to find that the term fails precisely because it is indeed a temporal designation!

Reynolds, like Jon Savage, author of England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond [1995], has offered a lot to readers precisely because of the historical emphasis of his work, a genuine desire to explain what motivated artists and record-label owners, and what appealed to listeners and scenesters; to delve into minute details about records and groups; and yet also to acknowledge his own opinions and actions, if not to admit that the history presented has itself become part of his subjective experience. Compare Reynolds's Rip It Up, and Savage's Dreaming, to what former peers like Paul Morley have written—for the most part, utter garbage. The point being: when Reynolds discusses the concept of "New Wave," in the second part of the book's discography, his description conforms to the changing (declining) status of the term. Heylin explains how it began, Reynolds shows where it ended up: artists who don't qualify as "Post-Punk" (and yet, many of these artists are certainly post-Punk, an obvious example being Elvis Costello, inspired as he was by Johnny Rotten's daring brio). As Reynolds explains, "some embraced [New Wave] as an alternative to punk, seeing it as more open-ended and less lumpen on account of its evocations of the French avant-garde. But soon New Wave became a negative term, referring to the middlebrow soft option: bands who weren't confrontational or aggressive like punk, but who were also too steeped in trad pop values (usually of Sixties provenance) to be regarded as experimental or modern a la post-punk." Ultimately, since any new conceptualization of "New Wave" would include the relatively-traditional groups who found themselves defined as such (Joe Jackson, The Boomtown Rats) we can't imagine that it would ever retain its position as a real competitor to Punk as signifier for what happened during the that was new, radical, and most artistically-noteworthy.

The British-U.S divide demands some final clarifications. From the British perspective, the greater mainstream attention afforded The Sex Pistols, and the widespread public controversy surrounding Punk, undoubtedly made Punk less open to interpretation, less a route toward artistic freedom, instead toward ignorant claims upon your work made by dumb fans and dumber journalists. In turn, the desire to reject Punk, and in turn Rock in its entirety, grew stronger than among Americans, whose Punk never achieved the modicum of commercial success necessary to make it a central factor in received-wisdom popular-music history. A dynamic similar to that of post-Punk began to develop in the U.S with post-Hardcore: again, as with post-Punk not so much a veritable movement or genre, but rather a shared attitude toward the Hardcore sound many artists started out with, before moving on [Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr.], or Hardcore scenes, record labels, etc., that many artists relied upon, but reluctantly so. Most of all, like post-Punk, post-Hardcore denotes an era, a starting point, acknowledged by the wide range of artists. The situation differed in that post-Hardcore groups had less qualms about rejecting Hardcore music itself, its relative obscurity and limitations allowing others to take the model of determined independence, and its camaraderie between artists and patrons, and do what they'd like; whereas British artists, even if they ended up far away from Punk aesthetically speaking, could not forget the moment in their national history when the music they would make became a genuine possibility. In the U.S, only when "punk broke," with Nirvana achieving the kind of "blockbuster" sales previously attained only by the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen, in turn setting the stage for morons to have their (green) day in the sun, would Americans of the Indie "underground" begin to feel the same aversion to Punk noted above, leading to the greater appreciation of music made by individuals who'd already experienced disillusionment of the kind seeping through the U S in the early 1990's. Since the Brits got there first, their music and their experiences provide much of the content of any sort of critique of Punk and of a post-Punk era. Perhaps Robb's book hints at a budding effort to give the idea of Punk its proper place, after which the "Post-Punk" fad would die off.

Buzzcocks

We've analyzed the faults of "Post-Punk" but not endeavored very far toward a re-evaluation of Punk that would both transcend debates over its origins and disparate manifestations, and eliminate the perceived need for a designation like "Post-Punk." As suggested in the discussion of Bernard Gendron's Between Montmarte to the Mudd Club, Punk followed Bebop in that the creators of popular music began to assert the artistry of their music on their own terms. Punk artists pointedly rejected efforts of "Progressive" Rock to concoct Rock-as-art by way of compositional complexity drawing upon European Classical music. Punk artists wanted to work with what was already there, especially emphasizing repetition/ minimalism and vocals. If Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band impelled much "Progressive" Rock, another 1967 release, The Velvet Underground and Nico, lay at the heart of a contrary movement that arose not long afterward: Punk. Granted, in this line of thought, The Velvet Underground certainly belonged to the pre-Punk past, recipients as they were of bemused condescending appreciation from Andy Warhol, Tom Wilson, and others, a situation similar to arbiters of proper culture deciding Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney were worthy of (some) respect. But the body of criticism that grew around The Velvets (documented by Heylin in All Yesterdays' Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971 [2005]) followed by David Bowie's codification of a counter history of Rock, most of all through his support of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, the increasing number of two-way interactions between Rock and the "fine" arts, exemplified by Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno of Roxy Music (and told in great detail in Michael Bracewell's Re-Make/ Re-Model: Art, Pop, Fashion and the Making of Roxy Music, 1953-1972 [2007]) in addition to the efforts of Bangs et al. in making Punk more than a lower-case description, helped ensure that young Rock artists would have a wide range of art-making opportunities open to them. Moreover, in this particular historical narrative, Lydon's disparaging of McLaren does not lead to "Post-Punk," but was in fact a necessary step (The Clash dismissing Bernie Rhodes similarly) for Punk, like Jazz, to escape the faux paternalism of artists from other musics and other media, and of critics, who tried to define for the artists how they could attain long-standing significance.

The obvious counter-argument: no matter how thoroughly such an inclusive understanding covers the variety of artists commonly deemed Punk, listeners and commentators will continue to associate the word with loud, fast, simple Rock music, the fashion and violence connotations lingering not far behind. Admittedly so... but perhaps this situation is analogous to the immediate associations many have regarding other genres. Mention Free Jazz, and what comes to mind for many? Screeching, squawking bursts of saxophone dissonance? Relentless free rhythmic backing? In fact a great deal of the music strays from such a stereotype. Mention Abstract Expressionism, and people think only of Jackson Pollack dripping paint. Mention Dada, and as with Punk many supposed fans think nihilism sums it up. Perhaps any radical movement in the arts will find itself distorted like so. "Post-Punk," like "New Wave" before it, won't alter that sad fate.

Much of this essay has focused on British Punk, acknowledging its centrality and the abundance of artists who emerged in some way as a result of its own central event: The Sex Pistols. But the earlier Punk that emerged in the United States in at least one respect had its revenge over its British counterpart that ultimately shone brighter. No matter how many commentators define, and critique, Punk based upon the assumption that the simpler British Punk that failed to progress beyond the Bollocks standard—The Adverts, for example—serves as Punk's template, the commonly-accepted notion that the New York groups were also Punk has worked against the term being demoted to such straightjacket status. Thus, we must attempt a broader, quite vague but also quite evocative, definition. Heylin's Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge [2007], an expansive history again focusing on origins [which, though overall avoiding the debates he had previously joined in, does find the author chiming in on the "Post-Punk" concept [pp. 458-462]) gives proper due to the varied locales around the world where Punk developed in the early 1970's. Especially in comparing the "Pub" Rock of Britain to contemporaneous events in the U.S, he indirectly suggests that the British Punk acts had less to work with. That is, the rudimentary nature of the music made by The Sex Pistols and co. grew out of the rudimentary music of Dr. Feelgood and co. The British were catching up with Punk: not turning their backs on it, but trying to do it right finally! And right they did.

August 2009
back