What is vintage pop music

Why our music sounds so yesterday

Book recommendation January - Simon Reynolds: "Retromania", Ventil Verlag, Mainz 2012, 424 pages

Amy Winehouse successfully rode the retro soul wave. (AP)

Neo-garage rock, neo-disco, neo-folk: all of pop music seems to be caught in an endless cycle of revivals and retro fashions. British author and pop critic Simon Reynolds considers this aesthetic standstill to be a sign of decadence.

The British singer Adele has now sold ten million copies of her last album "21". This makes her the most successful pop musician of the present - with music that, of course, seems to come straight from the past; with a passionately performed, but not very original retro soul that hardly differs from the hit parade successes of the 60s. And Adele is not the only artist who has achieved new successes with early music: Amy Winehouse successfully rode the retro soul wave; Lady Gaga borrows her beats straight from the 80s; the most successful rock band of 2012 - Mumford and Sons - could have traveled with the time machine from the seventies. Mainstream or underground: all of pop music seems to be caught in an endless cycle of revivals and retro fashions - neo-garage rock, neo-disco, neo-folk, neo-dies, neo-that ...

"Retromania" is the name of the book in which the British author and pop critic Simon Reynolds describes this peculiarly nostalgic, yes: almost posthistorical state of current music. After the intense, innovative epochs from the sixties to the early nineties, after the fundamental revolutions of beat and rock, punk and new wave, rave and techno, there has been no pop music movement that claims to be innovative, original and would have looked futuristic.

If there were innovations, they were of a technical nature. But the triumphant advance of digitization has contributed significantly to the slackening of aesthetic progress and artistic ingenuity. According to Reynolds, this is due to the expansion and victory of the archives: on the Internet, every music from every era has become available to everyone. What seemed past has become part of a universal present; thus the whole of pop has broken away from the continuum of historical development.

Reynolds doesn’t hide the fact that retro fashions have always been part of pop: what were the young Bob Dylan and the early Rolling Stones, if not folk and blues revivalists? And in the nineties, against the futurism of techno, the retro fashion of grunge rock emerged.

Still, something fundamental has changed. In the past, retro fashions were driven by a conscious rejection of the present. Today there is no will to distinguish. Rather, it is quoted from the attitude of connoisseurs who enjoy indiscriminately, and often the recent past as well. The retro spirals spin faster and faster until everything dissolves into, according to Reynolds, "hyper-stasis".

More clearly than almost any other author, he describes the self-contradiction of our contemporary culture. While everyday life is becoming more and more hectic and nervous, the development of art seems to have come to a standstill. "You can also say" decadence ", says Simon Reynolds.

Discussed by Jens Balzer

Simon Reynolds: Retromania. Why pop can't let go of its past
Translated from the English by Chris Wilpert
Ventil Verlag, Mainz 2012
424 pages, 29.90 euros