Reynolds in 2011
19 June 1963 |
London, England, UK
|Occupation||Music journalist, critic, author|
|Residence||Los Angeles, California, USA|
|Alma mater||University of Oxford|
Reynolds began his professional career on the staff of Melody Maker in the mid-1980s, and has since gone on to freelance and publish a number of full-length books on music and popular culture, ranging from historical tomes on rave music, glam rock, and the post-punk era to critical works such as The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock 'n' Roll (co-authored with his wife Joy Press in 1995) and Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past (2011). Over the course of his career, he has contributed to Spin, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian, The Wire, and others.
Reynolds was born in London in 1963 and grew up in Berkhamsted. Inspired by a brother, he became interested in music in the late 1970s shortly after the dissipation of the punk rock movement. In the mid 1980s, he attended the University of Oxford, where he co-founded the music journal Monitor with friend and future Melody Maker colleague David Stubbs. In 1986, Reynolds joined the staff of Melody Maker, where his writing was marked by enthusiasm for a wave of neo-psychedelic rock and hip hop artists that emerged in the mid-1980s (including A.R. Kane, My Bloody Valentine, Public Enemy, and The Young Gods). During this period, Reynolds and his Melody Maker colleagues set themselves in opposition to what they characterized as the conservative humanism of the era's indie rock, soul, and pop music, as well as conservative standards of surrounding music criticism. Many pieces from this era would later constitute the retrospective collection Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock, published in 1990.
In 1990, Reynolds left Melody Maker (although he would continue to contribute to the magazine until 1996) and became a freelance writer, splitting his time between London and New York. In the early 1990s, he became involved in rave culture and the electronic dance music scene, particularly that of the UK, and subsequently became a writer on the development of the hardcore "rave continuum" and its surrounding culture. During this time, he also coined the term "post-rock" in his review of Bark Psychosis' album Hex, published in the March 1994 issue of Mojo magazine. In 1994, Reynolds moved to the East Village in Manhattan. In 1995, with his wife, Joy Press, Reynolds co-authored The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock 'n' Roll, a critical analysis of gender in rock. In 1998, Reynolds published Energy Flash: a Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture, a history of what became rave music, and became a senior editor at Spin magazine in the US. In 1999, he returned to freelance work and published an American version of Energy Flash in abridged form, titled: Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture.
In 2005, Reynolds released Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, a history of the post-punk era. In 2007, Reynolds published Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing about Hip Rock and Hip Hop in the UK, a collection of his writing themed around the relationship between white bohemian rock and black street music. In 2008, an updated edition of Energy Flash was published, with new chapters on the ten years of dance music following the appearance of the first edition. He contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008), edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky. In 2011, Reynolds published Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past, a critical investigation into what he perceives as the current situation of chronic retrogression in pop music.
Reynolds has continued writing for magazines, as well as his blog, Blissblog. He resides in Los Angeles. His history of the glam rock era, Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, was published in October 2016.
Reynolds' writing has blended cultural criticism with music journalism. He has written extensively on gender, class, race, and sexuality in relation to music and culture. Early in his career, Reynolds often made use of critical theory and philosophy in his analysis of music, deriving particular influence from thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Julia Kristeva, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. He has on occasion used the Marxist concepts of commodity fetishism and false consciousness to describe attitudes prevalent in hip hop music. In discussing the relationship between class and music, Reynolds coined the term liminal class, defined as the upper-working class and lower-middle-class, a group he credits with "a lot of music energy". Reynolds has also written about drug culture and its relationship to various musical developments and movements. In the 2000s, Reynolds made use of Jacques Derrida's concept of hauntology to describe a strain of music and popular art preoccupied with the disjointed temporality and "lost futures" of contemporary culture.