Critical beatdown

<strong>Bring the Noise</strong>
Simon Reynolds <em>Faber & Faber, 400pp, £16.99</em>

In the mid-1990s, as the UK music press was preoccupied with the relative merits of Blur and Oasis, Melody Maker writer Simon Reynolds stepped to a different beat. His book Energy Flash (1998) traced what Reynolds called “the hardcore continuum”, weaving elegant critical theory around the synthetic beats of techno, rave, jungle and drum’n’bass.

Reynolds riffs on more than one note, though. After last year’s history of post-punk, Rip It Up and Start Again, comes Bring the Noise, a collection of magazine and blog writing that spans two decades. The earlier writings run a roving, perceptive eye over the warring music tribes of the mid-1980s: from the violent alpha male clashes of early rap to the noise and mayhem of alternative rock.

In later work, Reynolds eagerly surveys genres for the next sign of evolution: his 2001 piece “B-Boys On E” charts US hip-hop’s flirtation with rave culture, giddy with the possibilities that such a clash could offer.

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.

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Israel, Gaza and a summer of war?