Death to Trad Historicism: Futuremania, avant-gardism and Scottish post-Punk 1985–1994 | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2044-1983
  • E-ISSN: 2044-3706



The year 1977, according to certain voices, offered a ‘Year Zero’ in which punk rock was supposed to arrive ex nihilo. However, it did not take long for critical voices to declare that punk rock, in practice, was limited in its ability to so do. Such voices soon demanded a radical post-punk ‘new thing’ which should offer a more genuine avant-garde. Perhaps surprisingly, it took far longer for journalists and other historians of rock to account for this post-punk avant-garde. In the twenty-first century, however, this process has begun in earnest. In some writing related to this topic, a strong faith in the value of novelty for its own sake is apparent, as is a desire to think the development of the first wave of post-punk, c.1978–1984, as a special period with unique importance and self-evident salience. Against such a viewpoint, this article argues that whilst early punk and post-punk music may have involved some discrete eruptions of novelty in which a certain discontinuous ‘time out of joint’ may have been felt to have arrived, to adopt an historicist view that the chronology of such arrivals follows some necessary logic for its stylistic content is to overstate the case. Rather, if one wishes to grasp something of the deeper impetus that often ignites post-punk musicians and other creative individuals’ will to power, one might better engage with the avant-gardist and essentially ‘political’ aspirations that frequently lie behind the development of novel musical approaches. In an attempt to support this argument, the article explores the particular case of post-punk music in Glasgow and Edinburgh from around 1985 onwards, exploring a stylistic development from the Fire Engines, through Dog Faced Hermans, Dawson, the Yummy Fur and others leading up to the mass success of Franz Ferdinand. In several cases within this development, radical political desires are readily identifiable as a supplement to the groups’ musical radicalism. Such can hardly be claimed of the later inheritors of this Scottish scene/style, however, for here the mainstream music industry is embraced in a manner not quite consistent with the scene from which such groups, musically and socially, would appear to have sprung. In the final analysis, the article suggests that the attempt at articulation of music and politics remains of great interest. Perhaps one should hesitate, however, before deciding that this articulation arrived as an accomplished fusion of art and politics or as a moment with some historically verifiable importance: perhaps, if such a fusion is to come, it will require a time out of joint with the logic of historicism.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...
  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Derrida; historicism; post-Punk; punk; Retromania; Scottish music
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error