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Simon Reynolds (born 19 June 1963) is an English music critic who is well known for his writings on electronic dance music. 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, The New York Times, Village Voice, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The Observer, Artforum, New Statesman, The Wire, Mojo, Uncut, Spin, and others.
History and career
Reynolds was born in London and raised in Manchester. His 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 and Sounds). His early Melody Maker writings often contained strong criticisms of the concept of "soul" (then being heavily promoted by the NME), and of the somewhat earnest politicisation associated with the Red Wedge movement.
He later claimed that his apparent de-politicisation 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 analysing 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 Americanisation and to return to a perceived innocent past. 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. Sex Revolts is one of the major reasons why 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: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. 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. In 2005, the UK version of [Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984] was published; the American version came out in early 2006. Rip it Up is a history of post-punk, defining the genre and placing it in the context of 1970s and 1980s music. Reynolds has continued writing for prominent magazines, as well as his blog, Blissblog. 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 (The MIT Press, 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 what he perceives as the current situation of chronic retrogression in pop music.
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. The Sex Revolts discusses gender in rock 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. In his book, Generation Ecstasy, Reynolds traces the effects of drugs on the ups and downs of the rave scene. His evidence of his interest in the topic can be found in Generation Ecstasy, and in his review of Trainspotting, among other things.
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.
- Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock. Serpent's Tail, August 1990, ISBN 1-85242-199-1
- The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock 'N' Roll . Co-authored with Joy Press. Serpent's Tail, January 1995, ISBN 1-85242-254-8
- Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture (UK title, Pan Macmillan, 2008, ISBN 978-0-330-45420-9 / 1998, ISBN 0-330-35056-0), published in abridged form as Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (North American title, Routledge, 1999, ISBN 0-415-92373-5)
- Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984. Faber and Faber Ltd, April 2005, ISBN 0-571-21569-6 (U.S. Edition: Penguin, February 2006, ISBN 0-14-303672-6)
- Bring The Noise: 20 Years of writing about Hip Rock and Hip-Hop. Faber and Faber Ltd, May 2007, ISBN 978-0-571-23207-9
- Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews. Faber and Faber Ltd, February 2009, 978-0571235490 (U.S. Edition: Soft Skull Press, September 2010, 1-59376-286-0)
- Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past. Faber and Faber Ltd, June 2011, 978-0571232086
- Rip It Up and Start Again : Post Punk 1978-1984 - CD compiled by Simon Reynolds, 15 May 2006, V2 label
- The A.V. Club, Inventory: 17 Essential Books About Popular Music
- Adam Harper, "Record Recollection", Oxonian Review, 2 June 2011
- Perfect Sound Forever: Simon Reynolds interview on post-punk
- Simon Reynolds: High society - Irvine Welsh's film 'Trainspotting'. Artforum, Summer 1996
- Simon Reynolds: Review of JAY-Z, Vol. 3... Life and Times of S.Carter / DMX,And Then There Was X / JUVENILE, Tha G-Code /THE LOX, We Are The Streets Uncut, May 2000 (online copy at Reynolds "Bring The Noise" blog)
- Official blog
- Furious.com interview about Rip it Up
- Repellent review and interview of Rip it Up, 2006
- Seattle Weekly interview about Rip it Up
- A New (Rock) Polarity, a 1995 review of The Sex Revolts by Robert Christgau in the New York Times Book Review
- Review of Rip it Up in the New York Times, 2006
- Rip It Up and Start Again blog
- Bring the Noise blog
- Energy Flash blog
- Blissed Out blog
- The Sex Revolts blog
- ReynoldsRetro blog — an archive of Reynolds' writing
- blissout (Reynolds's defunct website, last updated 31 October 2002) - copy at the Internet Archive
- Rock's Back Pages — biography and list of articles by Reynolds
- "Bind and Heal: An Interview with Simon Reynolds", in Oxonian Review with Alex Niven about Retromania, 2011.