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Sunday, 29 May 2011

SubVersion Stop 123: A Book Review

This book wound me up so much that I felt the need to write a review of it. Here it is:

The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock'n'Roll
Simon Reynolds & Joy Press

"Gender, rebellion and rock'n'roll" – Ooo, gender theory and music, two of my main areas of interest combined, I'll give this a read.

And then the book starts like this: "Our argument is that, whatever the ostensible pretext or context, a large part of the psychological impetus of any rebellion is an urge to separate from the mother." Groan.

No, this isn't going to be a thought-provoking book about gender and music. It's going to be a first year psychology essay.

On the next page: "He can long for the womb and for an idealised mother-lover". Groan.

Going on, it seems the authors are going to examine their subject by concentrating on the lyrics. The lyrics! The lyrics are crap. Rock lyrics are almost always crap! Rock music isn't about lyrics.

We get to punk: "a sort of asexual relative of metal: cock-rock, with the cock replaced by a sort of generalised castration-paranoia". Groan. I feel like throwing the book in the bin by this point.

Flip on to the end of the section: "Could it be that the urge to outrage is a kind of severance rite, a re-enactment of the original disconnection from the mother's body?" Groan.

Flip to the end of the next: "What to make of the mother's boy? Is he truly androgynous? Are his passivity, his apparent acceptance and affirmation of castration, his womb-nostalgia". Groan.

But then there's the next section: "Turning our attention from what rock'n'roll has made of women to what women have made of rock, it's immediately apparent that (...) the ancestors of female rock rebellion are rather more elusive." Oh, thank god. No more Freudian claptrap. And yes, this part of the book actually examines music, how women have made rock music, found their place in rock music. It talks about politics, about feminism, about real and interesting subjects. What a relief!

In conclusion, this book is one third quality, two-thirds crap. Ignore the first two sections, rip them out, use them for toilet paper. But keep the third, because this is worth reading at least.

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