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Post-punk is a controversially defined[2] type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, drawing inspiration from elements of punk rock (such as its DIY ethic or provocative intent) while departing from its defined musical boundaries and cultural affiliations. In part a rejection of punk's roots in traditional rock and roll, as well as an attempt to resist mass cultural standardization, post-punk music was marked by a renewed interest in musical experimentation, in particular with novel recording technology and non-rock styles such electronic music and various forms of black dance music.[3] The movement was also characterized by its dissolving of the common distinction between popular culture and high art, incorporating the influence of non-musical sources such as modernist art, politics, cinema and the avant-garde.[4]

Early post-punk acts included Public Image Ltd, Pere Ubu, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Pop Group, Devo and Talking Heads. With its greatest period of growth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, post-punk music was closely related to the development of genres such as gothic rock, no wave and industrial music, and would eventually provide the impetus for much subsequent alternative and independent music. In subsequent decades, the style has occasionally been subject to renewed popularity and musical revivals.

Characteristics and definition[edit]

The term "post-punk" was first used by journalists in the late 1970s to describe groups moving beyond punk's sonic template into disparate areas.[5] Though varying widely between regions and artists, post-punk music has been characterized by an avoidance of aesthetics perceived of as traditionalist,[6] hegemonic,[7] or rockist[8] in favor of experimentation with production techniques and non-rock musical styles such as dub, electronic music, disco, and the avant-garde.[9][10] The style was particular concerned to abolish the reliance of punk music on established 1950s rock styles, such as three-chord progressions and Chuck Berry guitar riffs.[11] The post-punk era also saw the robust appropriation of ideas from literature, art cinema, philosophy, politics, and critical theory into musical and pop cultural contexts;[12] Among major influences on a variety of post-punk artists were authors such as William S. Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, avant-garde political movements such as Situationism and Dada, and intellectual movements such as postmodernism.[13] 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.[14]

Generally, post-punk music is defined as music that emerged from the cultural milieu of punk rock in the late 1970s,[15][9][16][3] although authors such as Alex Ogg of The Quietus have pointed out that many groups now categorized as post-punk were initially subsumed under the broad umbrella of punk or new wave music, only becoming differentiated as the terms came to signify more narrow styles. Additionally, the accuracy of the term's temporal prefix "post" has been disputed, as various groups commonly labeled post-punk, such as Television and Cabaret Voltaire, in fact predate the punk rock movement.[17] Some critics, such as AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, have employed the term to denote "a more adventurous and arty form of punk,"[9] while others have suggested it pertains to a set of artistic sensibilities and approaches rather than any unifying style.[18] Music journalist and post-punk scholar Simon Reynolds has advocated that post-punk be conceived as "less a genre of music than a space of possibility,"[19] 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.'"[20]



In November and December 1977, writers for Sounds used the terms "New Musick" and "post punk" for music acts which Jon Savage described as sounding like "harsh urban scrapings/controlled white noise/massively accented drumming".[5] The term came to signify artists such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose sounds, lyrics and aesthetics differed significantly from their punk contemporaries, and soon became applied to other British musicians, including Public Image Ltd, Joy Division, Gang of Four, the Pop Group, Wire, Magazine, The Fall, Bauhaus, Alternative TV, the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, This Heat, the Sound and Scritti Politti.[21]

Although American bands such as Talking Heads, Television, Pere Ubu, Devo and Suicide had been pioneering a style of music with qualities similar to post-punk since the early 1970s, New York's no wave scene, including Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Mars, DNA and James Chance and the Contortions emerged contemporaneously with the British scene.[21] A short-lived New York City scene existed, focusing more on performance art than actual coherent musical structure. The Brian Eno-produced No New York compilation is considered the quintessential testament to the history of no wave.[22] Similarly, a pioneering punk scene in Australia during the mid-1970s also fostered influential post-punk acts like the Birthday Party.

Despite existing since the inception of the early punk rock movement, bands such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, as well as other bands on the experimental rock trajectory such as Chrome, were associated with the post-punk genre.[23][24][25][26][27] These bands pioneered the emergence of industrial music from the post-punk movement.[28][29][30][31]


British post-punk entered the 1980s with a champion in late-night BBC DJ John Peel; bands such as Gang of Four, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, the Teardrop Explodes, the Raincoats, the Psychedelic Furs and Killing Joke; and a network of supportive record labels like Rough Trade, Industrial, Fast, Factory, Cherry Red, Mute, Zoo, Postcard, Axis/4AD and Glass.

In 1980, critic Greil Marcus characterised "Britain's postpunk pop avant-garde" – in a Rolling Stone article (referring to bands including Gang of Four, the Raincoats and Essential Logic) – as "sparked by a tension, humour and sense of paradox plainly unique in present day pop music."[32]

While not labeled post-punk as such in the U.S., prominent U.S. groups adopting similar sounds included the Replacements, Minutemen, Mission of Burma,[33] the Lounge Lizards, Bush Tetras, Theoretical Girls, Swans and Sonic Youth.[21]

In Brazil, the post-punk scene grew after the generation of Brasilia rock with bands like Legião Urbana, Capital Inicial, Plebe Rude among other groups in the movement and then the opening of the music club Madame Satã in São Paulo, with acts like Cabine C, Titãs, Patife Band, Fellini and Mercenárias, as documented on compilations like The Sexual Life of the Savages and the Não Wave/Não São Paulo series, released in the UK, Germany and Brazil, respectively.[citation needed]

In Argentina, the post-punk scene was pioneered by the band Sumo, led by Italian/British simnger Luca Prodan.

In Australia, other influential acts to emerge included Primitive Calculators, Tactics, the Triffids, Laughing Clowns, the Moodists, Severed Heads, Whirlywirld and Crime & the City Solution.[citation needed]

The original post-punk movement ended as the bands associated with the movement turned away from its aesthetics, just as post-punk bands had originally left punk rock behind in favor of new sounds. Some shifted to a more commercial new wave sound (such as Gang of Four),[34][35] while others were fixtures on American college radio and became early examples of alternative rock. 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.[36][37] Perhaps the most successful band to emerge from post-punk was U2,[38] who combined elements of religious imagery together with political commentary into their often anthemic music.


Post-punk was an eclectic genre which resulted in a wide variety of musical innovations and helped merge white and black musical styles.[39] It helped lead to the development of subsequent genres, including new wave,[1] dance-rock,[40] industrial music,[41][29][42][31] synthpop,[43][44] post-hardcore,[45] neo-psychedelia[46] alternative rock[9] and house music.[47][48][49][50]

Bands such as Joy Division,[51] Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and the Cure played in a darker, more morose style of post-punk that lead to the development of the gothic rock genre.[52]

Post-punk revival[edit]

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-'90s. However, the first commercially successful bands – the Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, Neils Children and Editors – surfaced in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Additionally, some darker post-punk bands similar in style to Joy Division and the Cure began to appear in the indie music scene in the 2010s, including Cold Cave, She Wants Revenge, the Soft Moon, She Past Away and Light Asylum, who were also affiliated with the darkwave revival, as well as A Place to Bury Strangers, who combined early post-punk and shoegaze. These bands tend to draw a fanbase who are a combination of the indie subculture, older post-punk fans and the current goth subculture.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Issitt, Micah L. (2011). Goths: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO. p. 5. ISBN 9780313386046. 
  2. ^ The Quietus
  3. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6. 
  4. ^ Rasmus, Agnieszka. Against and Beyond: Subversion and Transgression in Mass Media, Popular Culture and Performance. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, March 2012.
  5. ^ a b Cateforis, Theo (2011). Are We Not New Wave: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. University of Michigan Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-472-03470-3. 
  6. ^ The Quietus
  7. ^ The Guardian
  8. ^ Stanley, Bob. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé. W.W. Norton & Co. July 14, 2014. Print.
  9. ^ a b c d Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Post-Punk | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. 
  11. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. Those postpunk years from 1978 to 1984 saw the systematic ransacking of twentieth century modernist art and literature... 
  13. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. . 
  14. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. Beyond the musicians, there was a whole cadre of catalysts and culture warriors, enablers and ideologues who started labels, managed bands, became innovative producers, published fanzines, ran hipster record stores, promoted gigs and organized festivals. 
  15. ^ Rasmus, Agnieszka. Against and Beyond: Subversion and Transgression in Mass Media, Popular Culture and Performance. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, March 2012.
  16. ^ The Quietus
  17. ^ The Quietus
  18. ^ The Quietus
  19. ^ The Quietus
  20. ^ Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews. Faber and Faber Ltd, February 2009. ISBN 978-0571235490
  21. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber & Faber, April 2005. ISBN 0571215696.
  22. ^ Masters, Marc (2008). No Wave. New York City: Black Dog Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 1-906155-02-X. 
  23. ^ Doran, John (8 December 2011). "The Quietus | Features | Before Cease to Exist: Throbbing Gristle's Reissues Examined". The Quietus. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  24. ^ Stubbs, David (2009). Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen. John Hunt Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 1846941792. 
  25. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Mix-Up – Cabaret Voltaire | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Lapatine, Scott (17 April 2009). "Throbbing Gristle @ Masonic Temple, Brooklyn 4/16/09 – Stereogum". Stereogum. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Ingram, Matt (31 October 2010). "20 Best: Post-Punk 7"s Ever Made – Fact Magazine: Music News, New Music.". Fact. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  28. ^ Reynolds 1996, p. 91.
  29. ^ a b Reynolds 2006, p. 109.
  30. ^ Middles, Mick (2009). The Rise and Fall of the Stone Roses: Breaking into Heaven. Music Sales Group. p. 40. ISBN 0857120395. 
  31. ^ a b Reynolds 2010, p. 150.
  32. ^ Marcus, Greil (1 March 1994). Ranters & Crowd Pleasers. Anchor Books. p. 109. ISBN 9780385417211. 
  33. ^ Dougan, John. "Mission of Burma | Biography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 February 2015. Burma's music is vintage early-'80s post-punk: jittery rhythms, odd shifts in time, declamatory vocals, an aural assault 
  34. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Songs of the Free – Gang of Four | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  35. ^ Hanson, Amy. "Hard – Gang of Four | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  36. ^ Sullivan, Jim (2 March 1984). "Triumph of the 'New'". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  37. ^ "Cateforis.doc" (PDF). Google Docs. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  38. ^ Hoffman, F. W.; Ferstler, H. (2004). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Volume 1 (2nd ed.). New York City, New York: CRC Press. p. 1135. ISBN 0-415-93835-X. 
  39. ^ Reynolds 2005, p. 391.
  40. ^ Campbell, Michael (2008). Popular Music in America: And the Beat Goes On. Cengage Learning. p. 359. ISBN 0-495-50530-7. 
  41. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1996). The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll. Harvard University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0674802735. 
  42. ^ Middles 2009, p. 40.
  43. ^ Nicholls 1998, p. 373.
  44. ^ "'We Were Synth Punks' | Inquirer Entertainment". 5 March 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  45. ^ "Post-Hardcore | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  46. ^ "Neo-Psychedelia | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  47. ^ Ray, Michael (2012). Alternative, Country, Hip-Hop, Rap, and More: Music from the 1980s to Today. Britannica Educational Publishing. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. pp. ??. ISBN 978-1-6153-0910-8. 
  48. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2009). Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Faber & Faber. p. ??. ISBN 9780571252275. 
  49. ^ "The Punk Rocker Who Made Chicago House Happen". VICE Media. Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  50. ^ "Let's Talk Chicago Classic House Music > The Frankie Knuckles Story by Michaelanglo Matos (DJ Mixes)". Boolumaster. Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  51. ^ Reynolds 2005, p. 353.
  52. ^ "Goth Rock | Significant Albums, Arists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Heylin, Clinton (1993). Babylon's Burning: From the Velvets to the Voidoids: a pre-Punk history for a Post-Punk world. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-017970-5. 
  • Heylin, Clinton (2007). Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge. Viking, Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-102431-8. 
  • McNeil, Legs; McCain, Gillian (1997). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. London: Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-0-349-10880-3. 

External links[edit]