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Post-punk (originally called new musick) [2] is a broad type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, in which artists departed from the simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock to adopt a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and diverse influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with sources including electronic music and black styles like dub, funk, free jazz, and disco; novel recording and production techniques; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. [3] [4] Communities that produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines developed around these pioneering musical scenes, which coalesced in cities such as London, New York, Manchester, Melbourne, Sydney and San Francisco.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. Punk bands typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels and other informal channels.

Avant-garde works that are experimental or innovative

The avant-garde are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, and it may offer a critique of the relationship between producer and consumer.


The early post-punk vanguard was represented by groups such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Wire, Public Image Ltd, the Pop Group, Cabaret Voltaire, Magazine, Pere Ubu, Gang of Four, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Throbbing Gristle, the Slits, the Cure, the Fall Au Pairs [5] and The Sound . The movement was closely related to the development of ancillary genres such as gothic rock, neo-psychedelia, no wave and industrial music. By the mid-1980s, post-punk had dissipated while providing the impetus for the New Pop movement as well much subsequent alternative and independent music.

Siouxsie and the Banshees English band

Siouxsie and the Banshees were an English rock band, formed in London in 1976 by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux and bass guitarist Steven Severin. They have been widely influential, both over their contemporaries and with later acts. Mojo rated guitarist John McGeoch in their list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" for his work on "Spellbound". The Times cited the group as "one of the most audacious and uncompromising musical adventurers of the post-punk era".

Wire (band) English rock band

Wire are an English rock band, formed in London in October 1976 by Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert (guitar) and Robert Gotobed (drums). They were originally associated with the punk rock scene, appearing on The Roxy London WC2 album – a key early document of the scene – and were later central to the development of post-punk.

Public Image Ltd English band

Public Image Ltd are an English post-punk band originally formed by singer John Lydon, guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Jah Wobble, and drummer Jim Walker. The group's personnel has changed frequently over the years; Lydon has been the sole constant member.


Post-punk is a diverse genre [6] that emerged from the cultural milieu of punk rock in the late 1970s. [1] [7] [8] [9] [nb 1] Originally called "new musick", the terms were first used by various writers in the late 1970s to describe groups moving beyond punk's garage rock template and into disparate areas. [2] Sounds writer Jon Savage already used "post-punk" in early 1978. [11] NME writer Paul Morley also stated that he had "possibly" invented the term himself. [12] At the time, there was a feeling of renewed excitement regarding what the word would entail, with Sounds publishing numerous preemptive editorials on new musick. [13] [nb 2] Towards the end of the decade, some journalists used "art punk" as a pejorative for garage rock-derived acts deemed too sophisticated and out of step with punk's dogma. [15] [nb 3] Before the early 1980s, many groups now categorized as "post-punk" were subsumed under the broad umbrella of "new wave", with the terms being deployed interchangeably. "Post-punk" became differentiated from "new wave" after their styles perceptibly narrowed. [17]

Garage rock is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada, and has experienced various revivals since then. The style is characterized by basic chord structures played on electric guitars and other instruments, sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as often unsophisticated and occasionally aggressive lyrics and delivery. Its name derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage, although many were professional.

<i>Sounds</i> (magazine) magazine

Sounds was a UK weekly pop/rock music newspaper, published from 10 October 1970 to 6 April 1991. It was produced by Spotlight Publications, which was set up by Jack Hutton and Peter Wilkinson, who left Melody Maker to start their own company. Sounds was their first project, a weekly paper devoted to progressive rock and described by Hutton, to those he was attempting to recruit from his former publication, as "a leftwing Melody Maker". Sounds was intended to be a weekly rival to titles such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express (NME). It was well known for giving away posters in the centre of the paper and later for covering heavy metal and Oi! music in its late 1970s–early 1980s heyday.

Jon Savage music journalist

Jon Savage is an English writer, broadcaster and music journalist, best known for his history of the Sex Pistols and punk music, England's Dreaming, published in 1991.

Nicholas Lezard described the term "post-punk" as "so multifarious that only the broadest use ... is possible". [6] Subsequent discourse has failed to clarify whether contemporary music journals and fanzines conventionally understood "post-punk" the way that it was discussed in later years. [18] Music historian Clinton Heylin places the "true starting-point for English post-punk" somewhere between August 1977 and May 1978, with the arrival of guitarist John McKay in Siouxsie and the Banshees in July 1977, Magazine's first album, Wire's new musical direction in 1978 and the formation of Public Image Ltd. [19] Simon Reynolds' 2005 book Rip It Up and Start Again is widely referenced as post-punk doctrine, although he has stated that the book only covers aspects of post-punk that he had a personal inclination toward. [1] Wilkinson characterised Reynolds' readings as "apparent revisionism and 'rebranding'". [18] Author/musician Alex Ogg criticised: "The problem is not with what Reynolds left out of Rip It Up ..., but, paradoxically, that too much was left in". [1] [nb 4] Ogg suggested that post-punk pertains to a set of artistic sensibilities and approaches rather than any unifying style, and disputed the accuracy of the term's chronological prefix "post", as various groups commonly labeled "post-punk" predate the punk rock movement. [1] Reynolds defined the post-punk era as occurring roughly between 1978 and 1984. [21] He advocated that post-punk be conceived as "less a genre of music than a space of possibility", [1] suggesting that "what unites all this activity is a set of open-ended imperatives: innovation; willful oddness; the willful jettisoning of all things precedented or 'rock'n'roll'". [21] AllMusic employs "post-punk" to denote "a more adventurous and arty form of punk". [7]

Nicholas Andrew Selwyn Lezard is an English journalist and literary critic.

Clinton Heylin is an English author who has written extensively about popular music and the work of Bob Dylan.

John McKay was the third guitarist of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the first to record with the band.

Characteristics and philosophy

Many post-punk artists were initially inspired by punk's DIY ethic and energy, [7] but ultimately became disillusioned with the style and movement, feeling that it had fallen into commercial formula, rock convention and self-parody. [22] They repudiated its populist claims to accessibility and raw simplicity, instead seeing an opportunity to break with musical tradition, subvert commonplaces and challenge audiences. [23] [7] Artists moved beyond punk's focus on the concerns of a largely white, male, working class population [24] and abandoned its continued reliance on established rock and roll tropes, such as three-chord progressions and Chuck Berry-based guitar riffs. [25] These artists instead defined punk as "an imperative to constant change", believing that "radical content demands radical form". [26]

DIY ethic

DIY ethic refers to the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. Literally meaning "do it yourself", the DIY ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid specialists. The DIY ethic requires that the adherent seeks out the knowledge required to complete a given task. The term can refer to a variety of disciplines, including home improvement, first aid or creative works.

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music. While elements of what was to become rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.

Chuck Berry American rock-and-roll guitarist, singer, songwriter

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was an American singer, songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive. Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.

Artists like James Chance rejected rock tropes, instead crossing the avant-garde with funk, jazz and other styles. James White 1981 2 (cropped).jpg
Artists like James Chance rejected rock tropes, instead crossing the avant-garde with funk, jazz and other styles.

Though the music varied widely between regions and artists, the post-punk movement has been characterized by its "conceptual assault" on rock conventions [27] [6] and rejection of aesthetics perceived of as traditionalist, [1] hegemonic [27] or rockist [28] in favor of experimentation with production techniques and non-rock musical styles such as dub, [8] funk, [29] [30] electronic music, [8] disco, [8] noise, free jazz, [31] world music [7] and the avant-garde. [7] [24] [32] Some previous musical styles also served as touchstones for the movement, including particular brands of krautrock, [33] glam, art rock, [34] art pop [35] and other music from the 1960s. [36] [nb 5] Artists once again approached the studio as an instrument, using new recording methods and pursuing novel sonic territories. [38] Author Matthew Bannister wrote that post-punk artists rejected the high cultural references of 1960s rock artists like the Beatles and Bob Dylan as well as paradigms that defined "rock as progressive, as art, as 'sterile' studio perfectionism ... by adopting an avant-garde aesthetic". [39] [nb 6] According to musicologist Pete Dale, while groups wanted to "rip up history and start again", the music was still "inevitably tied to traces they could never fully escape". [42] [nb 7]

Appeal to tradition is an argument in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it is correlated with some past or present tradition. The appeal takes the form of "this is right because we've always done it this way."

Dub is a genre of music that grew out of reggae in the 1960s, and is commonly considered a subgenre, though it has developed to extend beyond the scope of reggae. Music in this genre consists predominantly of instrumental remixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, and emphasizing the drum and bass parts. Other techniques include dynamically adding extensive echo, reverb, panoramic delay, and occasional dubbing of vocal or instrumental snippets from the original version or other works. It was an early form of popular electronic music. The Roland Space Echo was widely used by dub producers in the 1970s to produce echo and delay effects.

Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when African-American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves. Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.

Nicholas Lezard described post-punk as "a fusion of art and music". The era saw the robust appropriation of ideas from literature, art, cinema, philosophy, politics and critical theory into musical and pop cultural contexts. [27] [43] Artists sought to refuse the common distinction between high and low culture [44] and returned to the art school tradition found in the work of artists such as Roxy Music and David Bowie. [45] [24] [35] Reynolds noted a preoccupation among some post-punk artists with issues such as alienation, repression and technocracy of Western modernity. [46] Among major influences on a variety of post-punk artists were writers such as William S. Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, avant-garde political scenes such as Situationism and Dada, and intellectual movements such as postmodernism. [4] Many artists viewed their work in explicitly political terms. [47] Additionally, in some locations, the creation of post-punk music was closely linked to the development of efficacious subcultures, which played important roles in the production of art, multimedia performances, fanzines and independent labels related to the music. [48] Many post-punk artists maintained an anti-corporatist approach to recording and instead seized on alternate means of producing and releasing music. [6] Journalists also became an important element of the culture, and popular music magazines and critics became immersed in the movement. [49]

1977–79: Early years


Siouxsie Sioux, c. 1980. Siouxsie sioux.jpg
Siouxsie Sioux, c. 1980.

During the punk era, a variety of entrepreneurs interested in local punk-influenced music scenes began founding independent record labels, including Rough Trade (founded by record shop owner Geoff Travis), Factory (founded by Manchester-based television personality Tony Wilson), [50] and Fast Product (co-founded by Bob Last and Hilary Morrison). [51] [52] By 1977, groups began pointedly pursuing methods of releasing music independently, an idea disseminated in particular by Buzzcocks' release of their Spiral Scratch EP on their own label as well as the self-released 1977 singles of Desperate Bicycles. [53] These DIY imperatives would help form the production and distribution infrastructure of post-punk and the indie music scene that later blossomed in the mid-1980s. [54]

As the initial punk movement dwindled, vibrant new scenes began to coalesce out of a variety of bands pursuing experimental sounds and wider conceptual territory in their work. [55] By late 1977, British acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Wire were experimenting with sounds, lyrics and aesthetics that differed significantly from their punk contemporaries. Savage described some of these early developments as exploring "harsh urban scrapings", "controlled white noise" and "massively accented drumming". [56] Mojo editor Pat Gilbert said, "The first truly post-punk band were Siouxsie and the Banshees", noting the influence of the band's use of repetition on Joy Division. [57] John Robb similarly argued that the very first Banshees gig was "proto post punk" due to the hypnotic rhythm section. [58] In January 1978, singer John Lydon (then known as Johnny Rotten) announced the break-up of his pioneering punk band the Sex Pistols, citing his disillusionment with punk's musical predictability and cooption by commercial interests, as well as his desire to explore more diverse territory. [59] In May, Lydon formed the group Public Image Ltd [60] with guitarist Keith Levene and bassist Jah Wobble, the latter who declared "rock is obsolete" after citing reggae as a "natural influence". [61] However, Lydon described his new sound as "total pop with deep meanings. But I don't want to be categorised in any other term but punk! That's where I come from and that's where I'm staying." [62]

United Kingdom

Around this time, acts such as Public Image Ltd, the Pop Group and the Slits had begun experimenting with dance music, dub production techniques and the avant-garde, [63] while punk-indebted Manchester acts such as Joy Division, The Fall, the Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio developed unique styles which drew on a similarly disparate range of influences across music and modernist art. [64] Bands such as Scritti Politti, Gang of Four, Essential Logic and This Heat incorporated Leftist political philosophy and their own art school studies in their work. [65] The unorthodox studio production techniques devised by producers such as Steve Lillywhite, [66] Martin Hannett and Dennis Bovell during this period would become an important element of the emerging music.[ citation needed ] Labels such as Rough Trade, Factory and Fast would become important hubs for these groups and help facilitate releases, artwork, performances and promotion.[ citation needed ]

Credit for who made the first post-punk record is disputed, but strong contenders include the debuts of Magazine ("Shot by Both Sides", January 1978), Siouxsie and the Banshees ("Hong Kong Garden", August 1978), Public Image Ltd ("Public Image", September 1978), Cabaret Voltaire ( Extended Play , November 1978) and Gang of Four ("Damaged Goods", December 1978). [67] AllMusic critic Andy Kellman declared that "Shot by Both Sides" was a post-punk milestone on par with punk's "Anarchy in the U.K." (1976). [68] [nb 8]

A variety of groups that predated punk, such as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, experimented with tape machines and electronic instruments in tandem with performance art methods and influence from transgressive literature, ultimately helping to pioneer industrial music. [69] Throbbing Gristle's independent label Industrial Records would become a hub for this scene and provide it with its namesake. A pioneering punk scene in Australia during the mid-1970s also fostered influential post-punk acts like the Birthday Party, who eventually relocated to the UK to join its burgeoning music scene. [70]

Siouxsie and the Banshees with the Cure. The two groups frequently collaborated. Siouxsie and the banshees 1979 with robert smith.jpg
Siouxsie and the Banshees with the Cure. The two groups frequently collaborated.

As these scenes began to develop, British music publications such as NME and Sounds developed an influential part in the nascent post-punk culture, with writers like Savage, Paul Morley and Ian Penman developing a dense (and often playful) style of criticism that drew on philosophy, radical politics and an eclectic variety of other sources. In 1978, UK magazine Sounds celebrated albums such as Siouxsie and the Banshees' The Scream , Wire's Chairs Missing and American band Pere Ubu's Dub Housing . [71] In 1979, NME championed records such as PiL's Metal Box , Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures , Gang of Four's Entertainment! , Wire's 154 , the Raincoats' self-titled debut and American group Talking Heads' album Fear of Music . [72]

Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus and the Cure were the main post-punk bands who shifted to dark overtones in their music, which would later spawn the gothic rock scene in the early 80s. [73] [74] Neo-psychedelia grew out of the British post-punk scene in the late 1970s. [75] The genre later flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. [76] Other styles such as avant-funk and industrial dub also emerged around 1979. [3] [46]

United States

Devo, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 27, 1978 Agora Ballroom.jpg
Devo performing in 1978.
Talking Heads band1.jpg
Talking Heads were one of the only American post-punk bands to reach both a large cult audience and the mainstream. [77]

In the mid-1970s, various American groups (some with ties to Downtown Manhattan's punk scene, including Television and Suicide) had begun expanding on the vocabulary of punk music. [78] Midwestern groups such as Pere Ubu and Devo drew inspiration from the region's derelict industrial environments, employing conceptual art techniques, musique concrète and unconventional verbal styles that would presage the post-punk movement by several years. [79] A variety of subsequent groups, including the Boston-based Mission of Burma and the New York-based Talking Heads, combined elements of punk with art school sensibilities. [80] In 1978, the latter band began a series of collaborations with British ambient pioneer and ex-Roxy Music member Brian Eno, experimenting with Dadaist lyrical techniques, electronic sounds and African polyrhythms. [80] San Francisco's vibrant post-punk scene was centered on such groups as Chrome, the Residents, Tuxedomoon and MX-80, whose influences extended to multimedia experimentation, cabaret and the dramatic theory of Antonin Artaud's Theater of Cruelty. [81]

Also emerging during this period was downtown New York's no wave movement, a short-lived art and music scene that began in part as a reaction against punk's recycling of traditionalist rock tropes and often reflected an abrasive, confrontational and nihilistic worldview. [82] [83] No wave musicians such as the Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, DNA, Theoretical Girls and Rhys Chatham instead experimented with noise, dissonance and atonality in addition to non-rock styles. [84] The former four groups were included on the Eno-produced No New York compilation (1978), often considered the quintessential testament to the scene. [85] The decadent parties and art installations of venues such as Club 57 and the Mudd Club would become cultural hubs for musicians and visual artists alike, with figures such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Michael Holman frequenting the scene. [86] According to Village Voice writer Steve Anderson, the scene pursued an abrasive reductionism which "undermined the power and mystique of a rock vanguard by depriving it of a tradition to react against". [87] Anderson claimed that the no wave scene represented "New York's last stylistically cohesive avant-rock movement". [87]


Just as Brisbane's Saints and Sydney's Radio Birdman were part of the worldwide if fragmented groundswell that led to the tipping point of punk in 1977, Australia too boasted a thriving post-punk scene. Indeed, to refer again to Simon Reynolds’ book Rip it Up, the author explained in its introduction that “for reasons of sanity and space,” he had regretfully decided “not to grapple with European post-punk or Australia’s fascinating deep underground scene.” But even if Australian punk/post-punk had by then already been thoroughly covered in books by Clinton Walker like Inner City Sound and Stranded, Reynolds’ apologia was merely more affirmation for the vitality of a scene that produced such globally significant acts as the Birthday Party, the Laughing Clowns, the GoBetweens, the Triffids, Severed Heads and even the Church, and so many others whether Whirlywirld, the Primitive Calculators, Tactics, Hunters & Collectors, Pel Mel, the Machinations, Models or the Moodists.

That the major themes or generic strains that ran through Australian post-punk uncannily paralleled those of its British and American counsins', like punk itself, is merely a mark of the global zeitgeist and the need for music to find fresh form/s along particular paths, like most notably DIY electronica and an arty, angular realignment of almost traditional literate songwriting. But just as classic Australian first-wave punk bands like the Saints, the Victims, the Leftovers and the Thought Criminals were distinguished by their very particular accent and vernacular, by their sense of humor and a lack of fashion sense, and not least of all the lack of interest they suffered from the local music industry and audiences (which of course are not unrelated), Australian post-punk suffered for a similar sort of tone and lack of broader interest, if a reversal in lacking a sense of humour while reveling in a certain fashionability.

In the immediate aftermath of the dissolution overseas, as early as 1978, of both the Saints and Radio Birdman, there were bands and scenes that grew directly out of their impetus and indeed very personnel. But if Sydney's post-Birdman scene tended to be a 'rockist' throwback to the mores of 60s’ garage bands, it was the formation of the Laughing Clowns by erstwhile Saints’ co-leader/guitarist Ed Kuepper that took a radical leap into the future and as such provided a great inspiration and rallying-point for Australia's real post-punk push.

The Laughing Clowns drew their explosive drummer Jeffrey Wegener from the short-lived Young Charlatans, who might have been Australia's first real post-punk band, active in Melbourne in 1978. Certainly they exerted a seminal influence, with the way other members like Ollie Olsen went on to form electronic pioneers Whirlywirld, and guitarist Rowland S. Howard went on to join the Boys Next Door, taking his song “Shivers” with him: This even more than the group's departure for the UK in 1980 and its attendant name-change marked the real birth of the Birthday Party.

All these bands, along with the GoBetweens soon to come, released their early recordings through Melbourne label Missing Link. Whirlywirld was arguably the archetypal pioneering Australian electro act along with their partners in crime the Primitive Calculators, and together they drove the Little Band Scene in Melbourne that paralleled New York's ‘no wave’ and was later eulogized in the 1986 film starring Michael Hutchence, Dogs in Space. When Whirlywirld, the Calculators and the Birthday Party all left Melbourne at the start of 1980, a gap was plugged by Models and Hunters & Collectors, who like Pel Mel in Sydney, fused art, pop, punk and funk and to varying degrees of success tried to take on the mainstream pub circuit.

The GoBetweens may have initiated a Brisbane Sound that was quite sunny and pop, but were transformed, firstly, by recording their third single for Postcard Records in Glasgow, and then interacting with Melbourne, Missing Link, the Birthday Party, the Laughing Clowns and producer Tony Cohen. When future Big Day Out promoter Ken West put on a one-night stand by the three bands at the Paris Theatre in Sydney in November 1980, it was a defining if sparsely attended event.

The electronic imperative either veered more towards the new pop, as in a band like Sydney's Machinations, or it went deeper underground into, say, the proto-industrial likes of Sydney's SPK, Severed Heads and Scattered Order, or the pastoralism of Melbourne's Not Drowning, Waving and Sydney's Dead Travel Fast, who were labelmates at M Squared Records with Scattered Order and the Systematics.

But generally the bands that found the longest legs were those like the Laughing Clowns, the Birthday Party, the GoBetweens (from Brisbane), the Triffids (from Perth), Tactics and the Church (both originally from Canberra), who like Brit bands Magazine or the Cure, blended almost classical songwriting mores with a certain amount of charisma plus large amounts of ambition and musical originality.

By the time Perth punk pioneers Dave Faulkner and Kim Salmon arrived in Sydney and in 1981 formed, respectively, the Hoodoo Gurus and a new incarnation of the Scientists, the post-punk era was now more or less over, giving way to something new again in which, worldwide, Nick Cave's Southern Gothic/swamp thing would wield an enormous influence, just as the fey poeticism of the GoBetweens eventually would too. The success of a wave of synth-pop bands like Real Life, Kids in the Kitchen and Pseudo Echo in the mid-80s was less an extension of Australia's own post-punk tradition than a response to the British New Romantic movement.

1980–84: Further developments

UK scene and commercial ambitions

British post-punk entered the 1980s with support from members of the critical community—American critic Greil Marcus characterised "Britain's postpunk pop avant-garde" in a 1980 Rolling Stone article as "sparked by a tension, humour and sense of paradox plainly unique in present day pop music" [88] —as well as media figures such as BBC DJ John Peel, while several groups, such as PiL and Joy Division, achieved some success in the popular charts. [89] The network of supportive record labels that included Industrial, Fast, E.G., Mute, Axis/4AD and Glass continued to facilitate a large output of music. By 1980, many British acts, including Magazine, Essential Logic, Killing Joke, the Sound, 23 Skidoo, Alternative TV, the Teardrop Explodes, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Membranes also became part of these fledgling post-punk scenes, which centered on cities such as London and Manchester. [9]

However, during this period, major figures and artists in the scene began leaning away from underground aesthetics. In the music press, the increasingly esoteric writing of post-punk publications soon began to alienate their readerships; it is estimated that within several years, NME suffered the loss of half its circulation. Writers like Morley began advocating "overground brightness" instead of the experimental sensibilities promoted in early years. [90] Morley's own musical collaboration with engineer Gary Langan and programmer J. J. Jeczalik, the Art of Noise, would attempt to bring sampled and electronic sounds to the pop mainstream. [91] Post-punk artists such as Scritti Politti's Green Gartside and Josef K's Paul Haig, previously engaged in avant-garde practices, turned away from these approaches and pursued mainstream styles and commercial success. [92] These new developments, in which post-punk artists attempted to bring subversive ideas into the pop mainstream, began to be categorized under the marketing term New Pop. [27]

Bow Wow Wow 1982 Berlin.jpg
Gary Numan playing.jpg
New Romantic acts like Bow Wow Wow (left) dealt heavily in outlandish fashion, while synthpop artists such as Gary Numan (right) made use of electronics and visual stylization.

Several more pop-oriented groups, including ABC, the Associates, Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow (the latter two managed by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren) emerged in tandem with the development of the New Romantic subcultural scene. [93] Emphasizing glamour, fashion and escapism in distinction to the experimental seriousness of earlier post-punk groups, the club-oriented scene drew some suspicion from denizens of the movement but also achieved commercial success. Artists such as Gary Numan, the Human League, Soft Cell, John Foxx and Visage helped pioneer a new synthpop style that drew more heavily from electronic and synthesizer music and benefited from the rise of MTV. [94]

Downtown Manhattan and elsewhere

Glenn Branca performing in New York in the 1980s. Glenn Branca.jpg
Glenn Branca performing in New York in the 1980s.

In the early 1980s, Downtown Manhattan's no wave scene transitioned from its abrasive origins into a more dance-oriented sound, with compilations such as ZE Records' Mutant Disco (1981) highlighting a newly playful sensibility borne out of the city's clash of hip hop, disco and punk styles, as well as dub reggae and world music influences. [95] Artists such as ESG, Liquid Liquid, the B-52s, Cristina, Arthur Russell, James White and the Blacks and Lizzy Mercier Descloux pursued a formula described by Luc Sante as "anything at all + disco bottom". [96] Other no wave-indebted artists such as Swans, Glenn Branca, the Lounge Lizards, Bush Tetras and Sonic Youth instead continued exploring the early scene's forays into noise and more abrasive territory. [97]

In Germany, groups such as Einstürzende Neubauten developed a unique style of industrial music, utilizing avant-garde noise, homemade instruments and found objects. [98] Members of that group would later go on to collaborate with members of the Birthday Party. [98]

Mid-1980s: Decline

The original post-punk movement ended as the bands associated with the movement turned away from its aesthetics, often in favor of more commercial sounds (such as new wave) . Many of these groups would continue recording as part of the new pop movement, with entryism becoming a popular concept. [99] In the United States, driven by MTV and modern rock radio stations, a number of post-punk acts had an influence on or became part of the Second British Invasion of "New Music" there. [100] [99] Some shifted to a more commercial new wave sound (such as Gang of Four), [101] [102] while others were fixtures on American college radio and became early examples of alternative rock. One band to emerge from post-punk was U2, [103] which infused elements of religious imagery and political commentary into its often anthemic music.

1990s–2000s: Revival

At the turn of the 21st century, a post-punk revival developed in British and American alternative and indie rock, which soon started appearing in other countries, as well. The earliest sign of a revival was the emergence of various underground bands in the mid-1990s. However, the first commercially successful bands – The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol and Editors – surfaced in the late 1990s to early 2000s, as did several dance-oriented bands such as the Rapture, Radio 4 and LCD Soundsystem [104] . Here is a list of post-punk revival bands.


Influence in the 1980s–90s

Post-punk was an eclectic genre which resulted in a wide variety of musical innovations and helped merge white and black musical styles. [25] Out of the post-punk milieu came the beginnings of various subsequent genres,[ improper synthesis? ] including new wave, [105] avant-funk, [46] dance-rock, [106] New Pop, [90] industrial music, [107] synthpop, [108] post-hardcore, [109] alternative rock, [7] house music [110] [111] and twee pop. [112]

Critical recognition

Until the early 2000s, the post-punk era was "often dismissed as an awkward period in which punk's gleeful ructions petered out into the vacuity of the Eighties" by commentators. [27] In recent years, Reynolds was one of the first scholars to have argued to the contrary, asserting that the period produced significant innovations and music on its own. [27] Reynolds described the period as "a fair match for the sixties in terms of the sheer amount of great music created, the spirit of adventure and idealism that infused it, and the way that the music seemed inextricably connected to the political and social turbulence of its era". [113] Nicholas Lezard wrote that the music of the period "was avant-garde, open to any musical possibilities that suggested themselves, united only in the sense that it was very often cerebral, concocted by brainy young men and women interested as much in disturbing the audience, or making them think, as in making a pop song". [6]

List of bands


  1. Punk rock, whose criteria and categorization fluctuated throughout the early 1970s, was a crystallized genre by 1976 or 1977. [10]
  2. According to critic Simon Reynolds, Savage introduced "new musick", which may refer to the more science-fiction and industrial sides of post-punk. [14]
  3. In rock music of the era, "art" carried connotations that meant "aggressively avant-garde" or "pretentiously progressive". [16] Additionally, there were concerns over the authenticity of such bands. [15]
  4. Ogg expressed concern regarding the attribution of "post-punk" to groups who came before the Sex Pistols, [1] themselves credited as the principal catalysts of punk. [20] He also noted several underheralded post-punk influences, including Discharge, XTC, UB40, the cow-punk scene, tape trading circles and the "unfashionable" portions of goth. [1]
  5. Biographer Julián Palacios specifically pointed to the era's "dark undercurrent", citing examples such as Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett, the Velvet Underground, Nico, the Doors, the Monks, the Godz, the 13th Floor Elevators and Love. [36] Music critic Carl Wilson added the Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson (no relation), writing that elements of his music and legends "became a touchstone ... for the artier branches of post-punk". [37]
  6. Guardian Music journalist Sean O'Hagan described post-punk as a "rebuttal" to the optimism of the 1960s personified by the Beatles, [40] while author Doyle Green viewed it as an emergence of a kind of "progressive punk" music. [41]
  7. An example he gave was Orange Juice's "Rip It Up" (1983), "a fairly basic pastiche of light-funk and r'n'b crooning; with a slightly different production style, it could certainly have fitted comfortably into the charts a decade before it was actually written and recorded". [42]
  8. Gang of Four producer Bob Last stated his belief that "Damaged Goods" was post-punk's turning point, saying, "Not to take anything way from PiL – that was a very powerful gesture for John Lydon to go in that direction – but the die had already been cast. The postmodern idea of toying with convention in rock music: we claim that." [67]


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