Pale Wire (Popscene)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I Know The Score

Tonight I finished reading Simon Reynolds' dance music tome Energy Flash. (I have an old edition, newer pressings have been retitled Generation Ectasy.)

A wonderful book. It was useful to me in two complementary ways. First, Reynolds provides a thorough narrative history of dance music from Kraftwerk to Fatboy Slim. I learned loads. His exhaustive knowledge of the material is served well by a series of illuminating interviews from major players through the decades. I'm not old enough to have lived through most of the genre's major events so it's great to get a pop-historical take. My previous knowledge consisted merely of the bric-a-brac of bullshit I'd garnered from webboards, record sleeves and friends.

Secondly, Reynolds uses his critical facilities not just to tackle the tunes, but also the culture which birthed the music. With clinical precision he autopsies the rave's sociological role and reveals some breathtaking insights. Most importantly, he doesn't shy away from confronting the drug issue. Ecstasy was the prime mover of the whole UK scene and, thankfully, Reynolds is unafraid to grapple with both its benefits and consequences. After reading the book, I now feel much better equipped to engage with dance music on its own terms, particularly verbally. Reynolds have provided me with a rhetorical framework that I previously did not have. I think I "get it" now.

Also, this'll probably end up costing me thousands of dollars in future record purchases thanks the recommended listening section in the appendix.

I haven't read Last Night A DJ Saved My Life but I can't imagine it being better than this. My highest reccomendation. It's everything I could hope from an Oxford University history major writing about pop music. (Though I haven't seen the new edition and I can't rule out the possibility the publishing house ruined it somehow. I'd be interested to learn if he's updated the text any closer to 2004.)