cover of book

Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s
by Theodore Cateforis
University of Michigan Press, 2011
Cloth: 978-0-472-11555-6 | Paper: 978-0-472-03470-3 | eISBN: 978-0-472-02759-0
Library of Congress Classification ML3534.C37 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification 781.6409048


“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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