gang of four

Post-punk is a rock music movement with its roots in the late 1970s, following on the heels of the initial punk rock explosion of the mid-1970s. The genre retains its roots in the punk movement but is more introverted, complex, and experimental. Post-punk laid the groundwork for alternative rock by broadening the range of punk and underground music, incorporating elements of Krautrock (particularly the use of synthesizers and extensive repetition), Jamaican dub music (specifically in bass guitar), American funk, and studio experimentation into the genre.

It found a firm place in the 1980s independent scene, and led to the development of genres such as gothic rock, industrial music, and alternative rock. The term ‘post punk’ was used in 1977 by ‘Sounds’ to describe Siouxsie and the Banshees. In 1980 critic Greil Marcus referred to ‘Britain’s postpunk pop avant-garde’ in ‘Rolling Stone.’ He applied the phrase to such bands as Gang of Four, The Raincoats, and Essential Logic, which he wrote were ‘sparked by a tension, humor, and sense of paradox plainly unique in present day pop music.’

Notable examples of post-punk outfits are Public Image Ltd, Joy Division, The Cure, Devo, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Several bands formed in the wake of traditional punk rock groups: Magazine was formed by Howard Devoto, formerly of Buzzcocks, and Public Image Ltd derived from Sex Pistols. The art punk of Wire and Television were influential on the genre. Other groups, such as punk rock group The Clash, incorporated the experimentation common to post-punk into their sound, most notably on their 1980 album ‘Sandinista!’

Around 1977, in North America, the New York no wave scene was also tied in with the emerging eurocentric post-punk movement. Bands and artists included Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Glenn Branca, Swans, and Sonic Youth. No wave focused more on performance art than actual coherent musical structure. The Brian Eno-produced ‘No New York’ compilation is considered the quintessential testament to the history of ‘no wave.

The original post-punk movement ended as the bands associated with the movement turned away from its aesthetics, just as post-punk bands had originally left punk rock behind in favor of new sounds. Many post-punk bands, most notably The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, evolved into gothic rock and became identified with the goth subculture. Some shifted to a more commercial new wave sound (such as Gang of Four), while others were fixtures on American college radio and became early examples of alternative rock (Love and Rockets, featuring three of the four original members of Bauhaus). In the United States, driven by ‘MTV’ and modern rock radio stations, a number of post-punk acts had an influence on or became part of the Second British Invasion of ‘New Music’ there.

The turn of the 21st century saw a post-punk revival in British and American alternative rock, which soon started appearing in other countries, as well. The earliest sign of a revival was the emergence of various underground bands in the mid-’90s. However, the first commercially successful bands – The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, and Editors – surfaced in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Modern post-punk is more commercially successful than it was in the 1970s and 1980s.


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