Simon Reynolds

bring the noise

Simon Reynolds (b. 1963) is an English music critic who is well known for his writings on electronic dance music and for coining the term ‘post-rock.’ Besides electronic dance music, Reynolds has written about a wide range of artists and musical genres, and has written books on post-punk and rock. He has contributed to ‘Melody Maker’ (where he first made his name), ‘Spin,’ ‘Rolling Stone,’ ‘Mojo,’ and others. He currently resides in the East Village in NY.

Reynolds’ first experience writing about music was with ‘Monitor,’ a fanzine he helped to found in 1984 while he was studying history at Oxford. The publication only lasted for six issues. When it was discontinued in 1986, Reynolds was already making his name writing for ‘Melody Maker,’ one of the three major British music magazines of the time (the other two being the ‘New Musical Express’ (NME) and ‘Sounds’).

His early writings often contained strong criticisms of the concept of ‘soul’ (then being heavily promoted by the NME), and of the somewhat earnest politicization associated with the Red Wedge movement (a collection of musicians organized in opposition to Margret Thatcher). He has since stated that his apparent de-politicization at the time was mainly a result of his sheer despair at Thatcherism and desire to escape – into a parallel world which was, as in the title of his first book, ‘blissed out.’ He also wrote a number of articles analyzing what has since become known as ‘twee pop’ from a somewhat sociological perspective, seeing in it a desire to escape the dominant 1980s values of commercialism and Americanization and to return to a perceived innocent past. (In the US, ‘twee,’ a pejorative in the UK, has been adopted retrospectively to describe some examples of indie pop, owing to what has been called the genre’s ‘revolt into childhood’).

In 1990, Reynolds left ‘Melody Maker’ (although he would continue to contribute to the magazine until 1996) and went freelance, splitting his time between London and New York. The same year, he published ‘Blissed Out: Raptures of Rock,’ a collection of his writings from the 1980s. Until his switch to freelance writing, Reynolds had focused mainly on rock, punk rock, post-punk, and pop. But in the early 1990s, he became involved in rave culture and the electronic dance music scene. He began writing about electronic music and became one of the foremost music critics of electronic dance music.

In 1994, Reynolds moved permanently to the East Village in Manhattan. In 1995, he co-authored ‘The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock’N’Roll’ with his wife, Joy Press. Reynolds has gained a reputation for the discussion of gender roles in music; the book is a critical/clinical analysis of the theme of gender in rock.

In 1998, Reynolds published ‘Energy Flash: a Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture in the UK,’ and became a senior editor at ‘Spin’ magazine in the US. In 1999, he went back to freelance work and published the American version of ‘Energy Flash’ in abridged form, titled: ‘Generation Ecstasy.’ ‘Energy Flash’ is a comprehensive history of what became rave music, starting with Detroit techno and Chicago house and tracing the evolution of the music back and forth across the Atlantic, all the way up to the late 1990s. Reynolds combines analysis of the music, social background and history, and interviews with big names of the day. One of the most notable aspects of the book is Reynolds’ analysis of the role of drugs, particularly ecstasy, in rave culture.

In 2005, the UK version of ‘Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984’ was published; it is a history of post-punk, defining the genre and placing it in the context of 1970s and 1980s music. In 2007, Reynolds published ‘Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing about Hip Rock and Hip Hop in the UK,’ a collection of his writing themed around the relationship between white bohemian rock and black street music. In 2008, an updated edition of ‘Energy Flash’ was published, with new chapters on the ten years of dance music following the appearance of the first edition.

He contributed a chapter to ‘Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture’ (2008), edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky. In 2011, Reynolds published ‘Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past,’ an indictment of and investigation into the current situation of chronic unoriginality in pop.

Reynolds has become well known for his incorporation of critical theory in his analysis of music. He has written extensively on gender, class, race, and sexuality, and their influence on music. In his study of the relationship between class and music, Reynolds coined the term ‘liminal class,’ defined as the upper-working class and lower-middle-class. This is a group he credits with ‘a lot of music energy.’ Reynolds has also written extensively about drug culture and its relationship to and effect on music. Reynolds was influenced by philosophers and music theorists, including Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Brian Eno, Joe Carducci, and the Situationists. He has on occasion used the Marxist concepts of commodity fetishism and false consciousness to describe attitudes prevalent in hip hop music.

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