There still hasn’t been a better London music book written since Jon Savage’s classic 1993 tome, England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock, rigorously chronicled how punk’s seismic shock wave emanated from its streets and suburbs.
In joining the dots between Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Coventry, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, Karl Whitney has penned an extremely important addition to modern music writing. Whether these hit factories will be open for business in our brave new post-Brexit world remains to be seen
“What does a city sound like?” asks Karl Whitney, at the start of this 11-city travelogue through the UK’s musical past. “What set of influences or circumstances led to the 60s beat-pop of Liverpool, post-punk in Manchester, the electronic synth-pop of Sheffield, Bristol’s trip-hop scene, and Coventry’s punk-era revival of Jamaican ska?” These are big questions, and though he never quite comes up with comprehensive answers, he has a knack of convincingly folding British music into a bigger industrial history...Given the sheer scale of what Whitney is trying to convey, it is perhaps inevitable that his writing is uneven, and often arbitrary in its choices. In some places, he meets musicians and scenesters who impart their memories and insights, but in other cities he doesn’t. He is too haughty about heavy metal and hard rock; the connections between this kind of British music and the culture and sheer noise of industry are fascinating.