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Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About

Joshua Clover (Author)

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In a tour de force of lyrical theory, Joshua Clover boldly reimagines how we understand both pop music and its social context in a vibrant exploration of a year famously described as “the end of history.” Amid the historic overturnings of 1989, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, pop music also experienced striking changes. Vividly conjuring cultural sensations and events, Clover tracks the emergence of seemingly disconnected phenomena--from grunge to acid house to gangsta rap--asking if ”perhaps pop had been biding its time until 1989 came along to make sense of its sensibility.” His analysis deftly moves among varied artists and genres including Public Enemy, N.W.A., Dr. Dre, De La Soul, The KLF, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, U2, Jesus Jones, the Scorpions, George Michael, Madonna, Roxette, and others. This elegantly written work, deliberately mirroring history as dialectical and ongoing, summons forth a new understanding of how “history had come out to meet pop as something more than a fairytale, or something less. A truth, a way of being.”


1. The Bourgeois and the Boulevard
BRIDGE: da inner sound, y'all

2. The Second Summer of Love
BRIDGE: I Was up above It

3. Negative Creep
BRIDGE: Just a Stop down the Line

4. The Billboard Consensus


5. The Image-Event and the Blind Spot

Joshua Clover, Associate Professor at the University of California, Davis, is author of The Totality for Kids (UC Press), The Matrix, and Madonna anno domini.
“[A] dense, provocative, wonderfully written little book. . . . Masterful.”—The Progressive
“[It] is an academic book, but also one that fans of politics and pop culture would savor.”—Carlo Wolff Boston Globe
“[An] extraordinary work of political aesthetics. . . . Clover is a gifted music writer, and his descriptions are vivid, surprising and politically sharp without ever being moralistic.”—Owen Hatherley New Statesman
“Astute . . . [A] vivid snapshot of a tumultuous moment in pop and history.”—Foreword Magazine
“Up close, Clover’s analysis is interesting an occasionally brilliant. . . . Rich with historical and musical insight. . . . It’s the smaller discoveries along the way that make 1989 worth your time.”—Bookforum
Clover is a gifted writer, able to craft elegant sentences and clever phrases that tease and provoke. . . . Clover writes about music in a way that makes it seem to matter more than anything else. There is much of value here. Clover is a very astute listener and observer, who tells the story of these moments in a subtle and nuanced way. . . . The book is rich in suggestions and insights, and makes a valuable contribution to the efforts of all those who continue to believe in music’s importance to our lives as citizens.”—Journal Of Popular Music
“Clover is a deeply learned and hugely enthusiastic student of popular music; his readings of songs are astute, witty, and unflappable, and each works in a larger argument.”—Bookslut
“Music and politics, drugs and society prove to be eerily congruent, and Clover’s tough analysis dismantles prevailing myths while revealing even stranger truths.”—Luc Sante, author of Low Life Mother Jones
“Rewardingly ambitious. [Clover] writes with precision and loads of personality, weaving between global politics and musical genres (rave, hip-hop, grunge) with a fan’s intensity.”—Time Out New York
“Offers a powerful framework through which pop history can be explored.”—Times Higher Ed Supp (Thes)
"Joshua Clover finally puts the lie to the tiresome cliche that 'writing about music is like dancing about architecture.' He shows definitively that when the time is right, architecture is precisely what people do dance about."—Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces
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Interview with the author, Joshua Clover

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