The Passenger

October 23, 2016 at 23:34

‘Iggy Pop: The Passenger’  by Stephen Barber (expected 2017-18) will take an original approach to the fifty-year anti-career in music and noise of Iggy Pop – with its dominant preoccupations of ecstasy and nihilism, self-laceration and audience-confrontation, hedonism and death – and the ways in which it has inspired innumerable musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers and other prominent cultural figures, internationally, throughout those five decades.



Iggy Pop’s work as the singer with The Stooges (1967-74 and 2003-14) delineated and propelled the principal themes of punk-rock in the USA; equally, from the many North American sources of European punk-rock, it was the sonic response of The Stooges to boredom, social stultification and subjugation which especially resonated in mid-1970s Britain and animated UK punk-rock, as in The Sex Pistols’ seminal rendition (1977) of The Stooges’ ‘No Fun.’

Above all, Iggy Pop’s early performance style – with its intensely corporeal focus, punctuated by razorcuts to the skin and collisions with the audience, and contemptuous of musical technique – broke with the more relaxed, pleasure-oriented performance idiom which had been largely prevalent for rock music’s first decade. Iggy Pop’s work also has a distinctive capacity to evoke beguiling cityscapes, often in the form of songs (such as ‘The Passenger’, 1977) narrating cities seen through the windscreens of moving cars on freeways or in transits between nightclubs. The experience and perception of cities form pivotal presences throughout Iggy Pop’s work, from the industrial cities of Michigan in The Stooges’ work, via West Berlin during his mid-1970s art-driven collaborations with David Bowie, to Paris in his death-preoccupied recent recordings.

Iggy Pop’s contemporary work – alongside art-collaborations, film-soundtracks and film-acting, his radio and public lecture work for the BBC – forms an extraordinary summation in its capacity to analyse both its own disintegrative course over the decades and also to reflect on current dilemmas in digital, social and political cultures. That public lecture work notably reveals the ways in which Iggy Pop’s music can be gloriously funny in its desperate, last-ditch black humour and coruscating self-mockery. The book will explore the status of the internationally acclaimed new recording, Post Pop Depression (2016), Iggy Pop’s collaboration with members of Queens of the Stone Age that directly evokes his 1970s work with David Bowie, and which he has intimated will be his last recording.

This book will assess the special, always-awry status of Iggy Pop which leads his devoted audience to view him as an exceptional figure in music history, and will explore his work in its many obsessions: with sonic and corporeal assaults, with the invocation of cities, and with memory and death in the contemporary digitised world.



STEPHEN BARBER is Professor in Art & Design History in the School of Critical Studies and Cultural Industries at Kingston University, London. He is the author of over twenty books, most recently: Performance Projections: Film and the Body in Action (Reaktion Books, 2014) and Pierre Guyotat: Revolutions and Aberrations (Vauxhall and Company, 2016). A new book, Berlin Bodies, will be published by Reaktion Books at the beginning of 2017.

Beijing Noise

June 8, 2015 at 23:59

Beijing Noise: Indie Rock in China
, Andrew David Field (forthcoming, 2016-17)

China’s indie rock scene has been building up momentum since the 1990s, but in the mid-2000s it exploded with a new vitality. Since then, bands such as SUBS (pictured above by the author, performing in their hometown of Wuhan, in July 2007), Carsick Cars, PK-14, Hedgehog, Brain Failure, Lonely China Day, and RE-TROS emerged to become leading voices in China’s growing indie rock scene. Like their counterparts in the West, most of these bands favored the dissonance, discordance, and sonic thrills of grating guitars, clashing keyboards, earthy chants, and screaming vocals to the more pleasing and harmonic sounds of Chinese or Western pop music.

Who are these musicians and why did they choose to devote their lives to making noise in the People’s Republic of China? What does their music mean to them, and what can this scene tell us about China as it rockets into the 21st century as (soon to be) the world’s leading economic power, yet still under the control of the Communist Party?

In 2007, in an effort to answer these questions, Andrew David Field embarked on an ethnographic journey of discovery by taking a deep dive into the music scene and getting to know the bands and their members on a first-name basis. Basing himself in Beijing, the undisputed capital of rock music in China, he spent several months engaging with the scene and hanging out with its key players and performers. From small, dingy rock clubs such as Dos Kolegas, D22, and Mao Livehouse, which serve as incubators and show-houses for China’s leading indie rock bands, to rock festivals in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hunan, where these indie bands could showcase their music to a much wider audience, he was there to witness it all.

In the process he shot many hours of raw film footage of the bands, wrote dozens of journal entries, and took hundreds of photos on his journey to the heart of Chinese rock music. Beijing Noise will draw on extensive interviews with dozens of key players in the indie music scene including the rock bands themselves, managers, club owners, record producers, and promoters, to present an original and groundbreaking account of a musical revolution in process.

Andrew is also the co-producer and co-director of the documentary film: Down: Indie Rock in the P.R.C., which has screened to audiences in film festivals and academic conferences across the globe since 2012.



ANDREW DAVID FIELD‘s research has been concerned with aspects of Chinese history, and contemporary Chinese urban society and culture. He is currently Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at Duke Kunshan University. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has spent much of his adult life living in China, including periods spent in Taiwan (1988, 1993-4), Beijing (1996, 2007), and Shanghai (1996-9, 2008-present). He has a PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and is also conversant in Japanese. He is the author of Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Chinese Metropolis, co-­authored with sociologist James Farrer (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist (Hong Kong University Press, 2014), and Shanghai’s Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919-­1954 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2010).

Gypsy Music

April 14, 2015 at 01:05

The Roma have been regarded highly as musicians for centuries, but ‘gypsy’ music has changed over time. Indeed, as Alan Ashton-Smith, sets out to show in Gypsy Music: The Balkans and Beyond, defining what ‘gypsy’ music actually is poses many problems due to its multiple forms and connotations in the popular imagination.

‘Gypsy’ music is not only tied to a people; it also has strong connections to places, and the key locus of ‘gypsy’ music, both geographically and in the popular imagination, is the Balkans. The Balkans is home to world’s largest Romani populations, and is therefore a major site of ‘gypsy’ music production. But just as the traditionally nomadic Roma have travelled globally, so has their music, feeding into a variety of ‘gypsy’ music genres that have their roots and associations outside of the Balkans, developing as new, and sometimes hybridized, styles. These include Russian Romani guitar music, Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz – all of which have strong Romani antecedents – and also the more recent forms of Gypsy Punk and Balkan Beats, which are self‐defined through associations of ‘gypsiness’, but whose ties to the Romani people and the Balkans are in fact weaker than they might seem.

Through an examination of culture and place, Gypsy Music seeks to illuminate the multiple facets of these forms of expression more clearly. And through an analysis of its history, its sound and instrumentation, the book will offer a revealing portrait of the music and the people who have made it.



ALAN ASHTON-SMITH holds a PhD in Humanities from Birkbeck College, University of London, where he completed a thesis on the subject of ‘Gypsy Punk: Towards a New Immigrant Music.’ He has published academic articles on Romani Studies, East European and Contemporary English literature, and has also written about music for websites including MusicOMH and Shout4Music, where he was the live reviews editor between 2012 and 2014. He is currently Research Development Manager for Arts and Humanities at King’s College London.

Tango wins!

August 3, 2014 at 12:33


choice-featured-imageWe are delighted to be able to say that one of our Reverb titles, Mike Gonzalez and Marianella Yanes’s Tango: Sex and the Rhythm of the City, was chosen as an ‘Outstanding Academic Title of 2013.’

Every year, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries on behalf of the American Library Association, publishes a selective list of Outstanding Academic Titles published in the previous year. According to the editors, “the prestigious list reflects the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community.”

The following is an excerpt from the review:

Tango-550px“This interesting, challenging, well-written, and well-documented study examines the origins and development of the tango from diverse approaches – dance history, cultural anthropology, sociology, and gender studies. The tango becomes a symbolic expression of the ‘new Argentina’, which became the melting pot of different peoples.

The book’s major themes are the community of physical theatre manifested in dance and music; the origins and development of tango dance and music from a rural to urban environment; and the role of the tango in the development of the city of Buenos Aires. Gonzalez and Yanes offer significant information about the seductive tango crossing social class lines from dark, dockside streets to dance halls. The title and subtitle hit the core of the tango and sex as a metaphor for social culture and for the context of the peoples of Buenos Aires – of all involved in this history of this port city.

The excellent bibliography, chronology, references, discography, and filmography make this an excellent resource for those interested in the historical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological aspects of the tango.”

Icelandic Pop

July 12, 2014 at 12:29

Icelandic Pop
by Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen – a new title in the Reverb Series for 2015/16 – will examine the evolution and characteristics of Icelandic popular music in the last half century or so. From the dance-hall bands that emerged through the influence of the country’s US Army base in the 1950s, to Iceland’s own 60s beat boom, its later turn to folk- and prog-influenced performers, and the later emergence of punk, hip hop, and hardcore movements. The book will also examine the country’s unusual musical relationship to other parts of the world (to the Anglo-American world, the Nordic countries), the importance of factors such as heritage, language and place on its music and performers, as well as the peculiar aesthetics and distinctive ‘sound’ of Icelandic music.

Icelandic Pop will be essential reading for anyone who has stumbled across artists and performers like The Sugarcubes, Björk, Gus Gus (pictured above), Sigur Ros, Quarashi, Emiliana Torrini, and Of Monsters and Men in the last twenty years, offering a thought-provoking cultural history of a music scene that continues to attract worldwide interest in its distinctive creative output.



ARNAR EGGERT THORODDSEN began writing about pop music the the Icelandic daily newspaper Morgunblaðið in 1999. His writing on music has also been published in other Icelandic newspapers, music trade and academic journals, books and on various music websites, and he is a member of the Nordic Music Prize Committee.

He has written three books on Icelandic music, Umboðsmaður Íslands: Öll trixin í bókinni (‘Iceland’s Manager: All The Tricks In The Book’), 2007, co-authored with Einar Bárðarson; 100 bestu plötur Íslandssögunnar (‘The 100 Greatest Icelandic Albums Of All Time’), 2009, co-authored with Jónatan Garðarsson; and a collection of his writing from from the newspaper, Morgunblaðið, entitled, Tónlist … er tónlist: Greinar 1999 – 2012 (‘Music … is music: Articles 1999 – 2012’).

David Bowie in Berlin

June 2, 2014 at 17:05

Robert Fripp, Colin Thurston, David Bowie and Brian Eno recording ‘Heroes’ in Berlin, 1977


A Foreign Affair: David Bowie in Berlin

Crises are good for art – political as well as private. Those who balance on the edge of the abyss need to keep their wits about them, looking not only down but ahead.

In the late summer of 1976, the mentally and physically exhausted David Bowie moves to West Berlin. For three years, he lives at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg, an unobtrusive district in the American Sector. Apartments are in short supply, but Bowie finds a loft with seven large rooms on the first floor of an art nouveau building near Tempelhof Airport. Next door is a gay bar; Marlene Dietrich was born around the corner.

Berlin is really only an episode in the life of the English pop star. But in the life of the divided city this episode has evolved into a myth that is constantly conjured up in articles, films and guided tours: Bowie arrives from Los Angeles, where his dissolute lifestyle had almost robbed him of his sanity and his health. In exile here, at the age of 30 he reaches the maturity he requires to become a fully rounded artist. He paints, he writes, he makes a film with Marlene Dietrich and, in the Hansa Studio right next to the Wall, he produces the most courageous music of his life. In the Berlin albums Low and Heroes of 1977, which he makes together with Brian Eno, he adopts the sound of the electronic avant garde. And, little by little, he falls silent. It is the most radical abandonment of hit-parade music that a superstar has ever ventured. Imagine a Robbie Williams, who has followed in the Sinatra tradition as Bowie once did, bringing out a record in which he no longer sings, but improvises on the synthesiser and celebrates his psychoses and phobias as part of the Cold War. That gives you some idea of David Bowie in Berlin.

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Tango (Dance Today)

January 21, 2014 at 22:49


An extract from a review of Mike Gonzalez and Marianella Yanes’s Tango: Sex and the Rhythm of the City by Nicola Rayner from Dance Today (September 2013):

“Much as it is a good idea to include the word ‘sex’ in a book title, in truth Tango’s focus is more on the music, tracing the dance’s history in the lyrics of the songs […] from its early days in the slums of Buenos Aires to Paris – from where it conquered the world – and back again. Through the song lyrics, we meet tango’s stock characters: the compadrito, the prostitute, the selfless mother and we see dance develop from its early scandalous beginnings through the Golden Age, Peronism, Tango Nuevo, and beyond. There is insight, too, into tango’s big names: Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzola receive their own chapters – [a book] excellent on big themes and small details, the personal and the political.”

Nick Drake (The Wire)

January 21, 2014 at 21:58

From the February 2014 issue of The Wire, Mike Barnes writes:

“Contemporary music history stretches back far enough now for received wisdom to assume too great an importance. Information is much more easily accessed than before, but then irresponsibly sourced quotes on Wikipedia and other websites can, through repetition, become adopted as the truth. In complete contrast, in Nick Drake: Dreaming England, Nathan-Wiseman-Trowse starts from first principles in his thorough investigation of Drake’s creative life and legacy […] his approach to the story becomes a compelling mix of rigorous arguments and imaginative explorations.”

The full review is available in this month’s issue of The Wire.

Tango (Socialist Review)

November 3, 2013 at 14:10

Tango: Book Review
by Roger Cox


Immigrants in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20th century (Project Gutenberg)

Mike Gonzalez will be no stranger to readers of this publication as a writer on the politics of Latin America and its diverse cultures. In this new book Mike and Marianella Yanes seek to explain the birth and development of tango, the dance that originated in Argentina.

They set the emergence of tango against the background of a developing Argentinian ruling class establishing itself in the growing world markets of the late 19th century. The drive to produce meat and cereals for Europe and North America saw thousands of poor European immigrants drawn to Argentina in search of work.

As they were being driven off the lands in Europe, these new immigrants found themselves joined in the growing slums of Buenos Aires by the gauchos, the Argentinian cowboys, who were being driven by enclosures from the fertile Pampas region.

On Saturdays the European and Argentinian slum dwellers of Buenos Aires sought to escape their cramped lives by joining the “long wait in edgy queues that surrounded the buildings in darkness”. They came to dance and tango was the result, a dance born in the “streets, cafes and brothels”. The dance’s sensuality was driven by the loneliness of men deprived of women except for the prostitutes in the brothels offering “three minutes of love”.

As the ruling class of Argentina grew rich they turned Buenos Aires into “the Paris of Latin America”. So tango emerged from dark unlit streets to become something that excited the interests of the rich and the world.

Under capitalism everything is commodified. And tango could not escape. Tango was not just a dance but music, songs that spoke of loneliness, love, hope and commentary of the lives of the growing working class of Buenos Aires. As it became internationalised it touched the lives of all who have their lives distorted under capitalism.

Tango is the same expression of defiance as the Notting Hill Carnival. Both are the products of immigrants and an expression of resistance. Both are regarded as dangerous and threatened by the rulers but they find themselves unable to suppress them because of their popularity.

The authors have written a book that re-establishes the root of tango in the lives of the oppressed fighting back and creating this fascinating dance.


From Socialist Review, October 2013 


Gabriel’s World

October 20, 2013 at 17:00

Paul Hegarty is working on a volume for the Reverb series, provisionally titled Peter Gabriel: Global Citizen (forthcoming, 2017). The book will look at the multifaceted performance aesthetic of Gabriel, with a particular focus on the way its lyrical / thematic concerns, and its performance contexts, trace an increasingly outward movement that extends from home, to the world and, ultimately, towards the idea of network.

In the four decades since his emergence as singer and performer with Genesis, Gabriel’s career has famously encompassed not only recordings and live performance, but also innovations in staging and video, and a long-standing engagement with world music, which have all driven the singer’s artistic development and embrace of the global potential of music.

In this context, Paul Hegarty hopes to show, Gabriel’s career can be seen as a connected sequence of innovations within which he has persistently acted as a harbinger of how technology impacts on the ways in which we understand the local and the global. From the multimedia performances of Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway to his work developing the internet music streaming service ‘We7’ (now renamed Blinkbox), via the promotion of ‘world music’ and his use of music video, Gabriel repeatedly worked in ways that would re-set the terms of musical production as a means of exploring the changing situation of media, individuals, artists and listeners / viewers.



PAUL HEGARTY is Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of French at University College, Cork. His previous books include Jean Baudrillard: Live Theory (New York: Continuum, 2004), Noise/Music: A History (New York: Continuum, 2007), and (with Martin Halliwell) Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock since the 1960s (New York: Continuum, 2011). He has written about music in the monthly magazine The Wire, and also for The Guardian. He is involved in music, noise and sound art, under the names Safe, Trace, La Société des Amis du Crime, and The Phil Collins Project, and also makes installations and sound art under his own name.