Bring the Noise weaves together interviews, reviews, essays, and features to create a critical history of the last twenty years of pop culture, juxtaposing the voices of many of rock and hip hop’s most provocative artists–Morrissey, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys, The Stone Roses, P.J. Harvey, Radiohead–with Reynolds’s own passionate analysis. With all the energy and insight you would expect from the author of Rip It Up and Start Again, Bring the Noise tracks the alternately fraught and fertile relationship between white bohemia and black street music. The selections transmit the immediacy of their moment while offering a running commentary on the broader enduring questions of race and resistance, multiculturalism, and division. From grunge to grime, from Madchester to the Dirty South, Bring the Noise chronicles hip hop and alternative rock’s competing claims to be the cutting edge of innovation and the voice of opposition in an era of conservative backlash. Alert to both the vivid detail and the big picture, Simon Reynolds has shaped a compelling narrative that cuts across a thrillingly turbulent two-decade period of pop music.
If I had to choose just one commentator to guide me through the last quarter-century of popular (and not so popular) music it would have to be--on the basis of depth of knowledge, range of reference, soundness of judgment, and fluency of style--Simon Reynolds.
His abilities as a forensic listener are acute and his comprehensive knowledge of the period enables brilliant expositions of the influences that link apparently separate styles . . . In this schema it is always hybridity and impurity that power the creation and renewal of the avant-garde. Reynolds’s tireless support for that egalitarian and progressive agenda marks him out as the foremost popular music critic of this era.
It has been claimed to the point of tedium that writing about music is akin to ’dancing about architecture.’ Well, whatever’s wrong with dancing? But the best critics reach for something deeper, a framework and a context that stimulates fresh ways of thinking about that music, of ’seeing’ that architecture anew. This questing, restlessly thoughtful approach is favoured by Simon Reynolds . . . Discovering the community and the sound he was searching for in the late-Eighties rave explosion, Reynolds’s subsequent writing on rock, rap and soul searches for communities and scenes of equal vividness, with a hungry vigour that rewards the reader . . . The sheer glee of his pursuit of new sound carries the reader through insightful scene reports on grime, dancehall and crunk with an infectious energy and inquisitiveness . . . You may not agree with all Reynolds has to say, but it’s very clear that this isn’t the point. These pieces are arguments to be concluded by the reader, they are stimulation for fresh thought. The result is one of the more gratifyingly thought-provoking pop tomes of recent years. Long may Reynolds so intriguingly dance.
There has been no more authoritative music critic in Britain over the past 30 years than Simon Reynolds . . . His analysis of black music is second to none.
Reynolds is a formidable critic; more to the point, he seems to have little desire to tell you about himself or subsume music to the demands of a more or less formulaic narrative. If you love music as much as all these writers claim to, Bring the Noise should be your first stop.
Collections of music journalism are not the most promising genre of book, but Reynolds is one of the very few music writers who can craft prose that evokes sound. This is a hugely eclectic volume, ranging from the indie and hip-hop of the late 1980s to the Arctic Monkeys, with authoritative notes on Britpop, ragga, post-rock and R&B, and interviews with the likes of the Pixies, Radiohead and Public Enemy. Reynolds is funny and unapologetically analytical, as well as offering disarming afterwords to some articles admitting that he said something stupid, or accidentally injured a hero (’I once scorched Jarvis’s flesh’). One refreshing development you can trace is that Reynolds becomes less snobbish over the years, increasingly curious and open-eared. In 2000, for example, he delivers a lovely half-wry defense of ’cheesy’ Euro dance music, which brings together an honest joy in big tunes for their own sake and an intriguing theory about young Italians feeling oppressed by their tastefully ’historic’ environment and so turning to all things artificial: ’In the land of terracotta, plastic has a liberating future-buzz about it.’ Or, as Aqua would say: ’Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.’
He is the master of the drop-dead soundbite. Reynolds remains in the business of what Paul Morley believes has been lost from music writing: he provides a narrative . . . We should give thanks.
Even when he’s writing about music that frankly sounds as appealing to me as amputation, I am gripped by not only what he has to say, but the way he says it. Bring the Noise is genuinely beautifully written . . . Brilliant.
This book is required reading for anyone interested in music journalism and what, at its very peak, it is capable of being. If you were compiling a list of the ten best music books of all time, three of Simon Reynolds’s previous efforts would be automatic inclusions: Blissed Out (a collection of his early writings on everything from Metallica to Public Enemy), Energy Flash (the definitive history of electronic music), and last year’s Rip It Up and Start Again (a similarly exhaustive overview of the musical mutations that sprouted everywhere when punk rock spread its genes far and wide in the late 1970s). Reynolds is just as much of a cultural theorist as a critic--he’s peerless at coming at his subjects from fresh and unexplored angles and making hitherto unestablished connections between seemingly disparate elements . . . Coruscating, razor-sharp and beautifully written from first to last, Bring the Noise is a superb introduction to the work of a man who, for some time, has had no serious rivals as the best music writer around.
20 years’ worth of mostly excellent journalism and theorising on rock and hip-hop by perceptive music critic.
A cracking compendium of the former Melody Maker writer’s work . . . Most of the book investigates the sounds that have shrieked out of pirate radio since the start of the Nineties (speed garage, techstep, gabba, jump-up, crunk), a jungle of sub-genres usually alien to mainstream critical respect . . . an important book.
Reynolds’s affection for grand narratives is evident, and you sometimes get the feeling he could read beautiful patterns in a snowstorm. Bring the Noise reads like a playground of ideas; word battles conducted for the elevated buzz of intellectual pleasure.
Highly acute and sharply witty, Reynolds’s passionate original pieces are appended with recent notes exposing his contradictions, misjudgments and personal prejudices . . . A joyfully fluent, never conventional account of recent musical flashpoints, from one of the genre’s most valuable map-makers.
Reynolds shows again that he is a gifted writer, able to do the impossible: put sound into the written word.
Way better than any music book you’ve read lately.