Simon Reynolds

  • Night People

    The title of disco scholar Tim Lawrence’s new book has taken on a more ominous overtone following the massacre at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Of course, the grim reaper alluded to in Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980–1983 is not a homophobic terrorist but a disease, AIDS, which scythed a deadly swath through the cast of characters in this absorbing history: performers and artists such as Klaus Nomi, Keith Haring, and Arthur Russell, to name only a few casualties. But Lawrence also means “life and death” in a less literal way: He identifies in club culture a vitalist spirit

  • Underknown Pleasures



    For many years now, I have admired Lucia Berlin’s stories out loud to people, but almost no one has known her name or her work. This has been an abiding mystery to me. Is it geographical—the places she lived, wrote about (Alaska, Chile, Colorado)? Or is it her difficult subjects—alcoholism, poverty, abandonment, cruelty? But she also wrote about love, generosity, loyalty, courage, and many other good things. And she was always funny. As one of her narrators says, “I don’t mind telling people awful things if I can make them funny.”


  • Pale Ire

    In “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” off the Smiths’ 1983 self-titled debut album, Morrissey bemoans the advances of a voracious woman: “But she’s too rough, and I’m too delicate.” That’s how the world has tended to see the singer: the prince of mope rock, someone who speaks for life’s wilting wallflowers, the easily bruised and eternally unrequited. From his fey, sighing vocals, often spiraling up into a genderless falsetto, to lyrics that express the erotic ascetic yearnings of someone with “no understanding of himself as flesh,” most of Morrissey’s best songs fit this image of bookish, bedroom-cloistered

  • School of Rock

    The title promises the definitive lowdown. Between these covers, it implies, you will find everything you’ll ever need to know about the dynamics of collaboration, the craft of stage performance and studio recording, the nitty-gritty of the music industry. But you’ll also learn about how music affects us emotionally and what, ultimately, it is for.

    A tall order, you might think, but if anybody is qualified to take a stab, it’s David Byrne. He’s an insider with over forty years’ experience as a practitioner under his guitar strap; he’s also an art-school-educated intellectual capable of taking

  • No Future

    Rock’s accumulated past is accessible as never before due to the Internet’s vast and ever-growing archives. From the most mainstream star to the most obscure lost artist, many decades of music, video, and trivia are just a mouse click or scroll-wheel twirl away from our ears and eyes. It is precisely this unprecedented proximity and vividness of the past in the digital present that makes book-length cultural analysis more essential than ever. The emerging cloud is a messy mass of decontextualized sounds and visuals. Long-form music writing supplies a crucial element of distance and abstraction