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Post-punk is a type of rock music that emerged from the punk rock movement of the 1970s. The term refers to music that draws inspiration from elements of punk, including its musical energy, ideological provocation, and DIY approach, while moving beyond its particular sonic characteristics, preoccupations, and cultural affiliations.[2][3][4]

Though varying across regions and artists, common characteristics of post-punk music included experimentation with production techniques and non-rock styles such as funk, dub reggae, electronic music, disco, and the avant-garde;[2][5] the rejection of aesthetics perceived of as traditional, hegemonic, or rock-oriented in favor of novel and/or challenging features;[3][6] and the appropriation of ideas from modernist art, literature, politics, and theory into musical and pop cultural contexts.[7] In some locations, most notably Northern England and Lower Manhattan, the development of post-punk accompanied the growth of efficacious subcultures, which played important roles in the production of art, multimedia festivals, fanzines, and independent labels related to the music.[8]

Early post-punk acts include Public Image Ltd, Pere Ubu, Joy Division, the Fall, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo, and Talking Heads. Seeing 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 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.

Origins of term[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,[9] though retrospective critical developments have effected some changes in its usage. Alex Ogg of The Quietus has 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.[3]

Some critics, such as AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, have employed the term to denote "a more adventurous and arty form of punk,"[2] while others have suggested it pertains to a set of artistic sensibilities and approaches rather than any unifying style.[3] 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,"[3] 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.'"[10]



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".[9] 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, Bauhaus, Joy Division, the Fall, Wire, Alternative TV, the Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four, Magazine, This Heat, the Sound, Scritti Politti, and the Pop Group.[11]

Although American bands such as Pere Ubu, Devo, Suicide, Television, the B-52s and Talking Heads 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.[11] A short-lived New York City scene existed. It focused 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.[12] Similarly, a pioneering punk scene in Australia during the mid-1970s also fostered influential post-punk acts like the Boys Next Door/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.[3][13][14][15][16] These bands pioneered the emergence of industrial music from the post-punk movement.[17][18][19][20]


British post-punk entered the 1980s with a champion, late-night BBC DJ John Peel, with 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."[21]

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,[22] the Lounge Lizards, Bush Tetras, Theoretical Girls, Swans and Sonic Youth.[11]

In Brazil, the post-punk scene grew after 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 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),[23][24] 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.[25][26] Perhaps the most successful band to emerge from post-punk was U2,[27] who combined elements of religious imagery together with political commentary into their often anthemic music.


Post-punk led to the development of many musical genres, including dance-rock,[28] industrial music,[29][18][30][20] synthpop,[31][32] post-hardcore,[33] neo-psychedelia[34] and, most prominently, alternative rock.[2]

Bands such as 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.[35]

Post-punk revival[edit]

The turn of the 21st century saw a post-punk revival 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.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Issitt, Micah L. (2011). Goths: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO. p. 5. ISBN 9780313386046. 
  2. ^ a b c d Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Post-Punk | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f The Quietus Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Quietus" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6. 
  5. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2005). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6. 
  6. ^ The Guardian
  7. ^ 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... 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews. Faber and Faber Ltd, February 2009. ISBN 978-0571235490
  11. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber & Faber, April 2005. ISBN 0571215696.
  12. ^ Masters, Marc (2008). No Wave. New York City: Black Dog Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 1-906155-02-X. 
  13. ^ Stubbs, David (2009). Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen. John Hunt Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 1846941792. 
  14. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Mix-Up – Cabaret Voltaire | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Lapatine, Scott (17 April 2009). "Throbbing Gristle @ Masonic Temple, Brooklyn 4/16/09 – Stereogum". Stereogum. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Ingram, Matt (31 October 2010). "20 Best: Post-Punk 7"s Ever Made – Fact Magazine: Music News, New Music.". Fact. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  17. ^ Reynolds 1996, p. 91.
  18. ^ a b Reynolds 2006, p. 109.
  19. ^ Middles, Mick (2009). The Rise and Fall of the Stone Roses: Breaking into Heaven. Music Sales Group. p. 40. ISBN 0857120395. 
  20. ^ a b Reynolds 2010, p. 150.
  21. ^ Marcus, Greil (1 March 1994). Ranters & Crowd Pleasers. Anchor Books. p. 109. ISBN 9780385417211. 
  22. ^ 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 
  23. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Songs of the Free – Gang of Four | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Hanson, Amy. "Hard – Gang of Four | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  25. ^ Sullivan, Jim (2 March 1984). "Triumph of the 'New'". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  26. ^ "Cateforis.doc" (PDF). Google Docs. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ Campbell, Michael (2008). Popular Music in America: And the Beat Goes On. Cengage Learning. p. 359. ISBN 0-495-50530-7. 
  29. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1996). The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll. Harvard University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0674802735. 
  30. ^ Middles 2009, p. 40.
  31. ^ Nicholls 1998, p. 373.
  32. ^ "'We Were Synth Punks' | Inquirer Entertainment". 5 March 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  33. ^ "Post-Hardcore | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  34. ^ "Neo-Psychedelia | Significant Albums, Artists and Songs | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  35. ^ "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]