new wave

new wave
   Taking its name from a movement in French literature and film of the 1950s (nouvelle vague), new wave was a term used to describe a pop music style which evolved in the late 1970s, parallel to punk rock. New wave was for some people a sanitized, more commercially defined form of punk, although it was at one point used as a general term for the stripped down back-to-basics style which included punk. For instance, Phonogram released an LP in 1977 entitled New Wave which featured mostly American acts such as The Ramones (pioneers of the American punk sound), Richard Hell and the Voidoids (whose singer first sported the ripped tshirt and spiky hair style which defined the look adopted by British punks) and Talking Heads alongside British and Irish acts The Damned and The Boomtown Rats (both of whom were seen as punks).
   Very quickly, however, the term underwent a transition from a loose description of the latest thing (which in many ways defined itself more by what it was not—that is, old, progressive or heavy metal rock, adult-orientated pop, or disco) to a commercially defined genre which was a less outrageous, more musically competent version of punk. In America, acts such as Blondie, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mink Deville and Talking Heads were defined as new wave. In Britain, XTC, Elvis Costello, The Records, Squeeze and The Motors were joined by ex-punks The Boomtown Rats in an assault on the nation’s pop sensibilities under the banner of new wave. In both countries, new wave began to infiltrate the mainstream of popular culture and displace some of the older acts, where punk for all its initial impact had failed. Eventually the term fell into disuse because it became too general, taking in any new acts in the early 1980s except heavy metal. Ironically, the early 1980s saw bands such as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden promoted as a new wave of British heavy metal, claiming to replace ageing rock superstars with a lean and hungry, younger variety. In the post-grunge 1990s there was a music paper-based campaign to promote a ‘new wave of new wave’ with British bands such as Elastica, Smash and others wearing punk and new wave influences on their sleeves, including The Clash, Wire, Blondie, The Stranglers and so on. This movement was eclipsed by Britpop.
   See also: alternative music; indie pop
   Further reading
    Savage, J. (1991) England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond, London: Faber & Faber.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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