Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s

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University of Michigan Press, Jun 7, 2011 - Music - 294 pages
4 Reviews

“Are We Not New Wave? is destined to become the definitive study of new wave music.”
—Mark Spicer, coeditor of Sounding Out Pop

New wave emerged at the turn of the 1980s as a pop music movement cast in the image of punk rock’s sneering demeanor, yet rendered more accessible and sophisticated. Artists such as the Cars, Devo, the Talking Heads, and the Human League leapt into the Top 40 with a novel sound that broke with the staid rock clichés of the 1970s and pointed the way to a more modern pop style.

In Are We Not New Wave? Theo Cateforis provides the first musical and cultural history of the new wave movement, charting its rise out of mid-1970s punk to its ubiquitous early 1980s MTV presence and downfall in the mid-1980s. The book also explores the meanings behind the music’s distinctive traits—its characteristic whiteness and nervousness; its playful irony, electronic melodies, and crossover experimentations. Cateforis traces new wave’s modern sensibilities back to the space-age consumer culture of the late 1950s/early 1960s.

Three decades after its rise and fall, new wave’s influence looms large over the contemporary pop scene, recycled and celebrated not only in reunion tours,  VH1 nostalgia specials, and “80s night” dance clubs but in the music of artists as diverse as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and the Killers.


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Review: Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s

User Review  - Goodreads

As an avid new wave fan, I was excited to come across this title. Unfortunately it was a disappointment for me. It really read more like somebody's masters thesis than a book for the public to read ... Read full review

Review: Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s

User Review  - Goodreads

A DAMN FINE READ. Great introduction. Gets you prepped for the ideas of nervousness, urban alienation, irony, campyness, etc which will come up later, as well as a broad stroked overview of the ... Read full review


Tracking the Tide The New Wave Washes In and Out
The Second British Invasion and Its Aftermath From New Pop to Modern Rock
From Neurasthenia to Nervousness The Whiteness of the New Wave
Camp Kitsch Trash New Wave and the Politics of Irony
I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again Power Pop and the Mining of Rocks Modern Past
Roll Over Guitar Heroes Synthesizers Are Here
Kings of the Wild Frontier
The New Wave Revival

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About the author (2011)

Theo Cateforis is Assistant Professor of Music History and Culture in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University.  His research is in the areas of American Music, Popular Music Studies, and Twentieth-Century Art Music. He is editor of the anthology The Rock History Reader.

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