The bands and musicians that Richard T. Rodríguez explores in this treatise/memoir include Siouxsie And The Banshees, Adam Ant, Bauhaus, Soft Cell, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Pet Shop Boys. So in the book’s subtitle, he uses “post-punk” loosely, if we define “post-punk” as music that’s not punk but wouldn’t have existed without punk. But definitions of “post-punk” outnumber post-punk bands, so we’ll move on.
Another British band in A Kiss Across the Ocean is Blue Rondo À La Turk, which I’d never heard of. In the chapter devoted to the band, Rodríguez—who’s a Professor of English and Media and Cultural Studies at University of California, Riverside—writes of their “fashion and music sensibilities articulated from a British trajectory that nodded to [or, was influenced by] and transformed American and, more to the point here, global U.S. Latino and Latin-American cultures.” That symbiosis—which notably features gay culture—is what A Kiss Across the Ocean is about.
The book is a mosaic—which is to say, Rodríguez isn’t trying to explain why the British musicians were influenced by the U.S. Latinidad, perhaps an impossible task. The mosaic includes his own experiences as a fan in Southern California, both while growing up and as a still-enthusiastic middle-aged man. And his enthusiasms are infectious: he writes with delight about Ghostown (that’s their spelling) Sound System, a politically conscious Southern California DJ (or “selector”) collective that I hope to see and hear one day.
Just as fans of American folk music had their understanding of the music permanently placed in a new and larger context after reading Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic (later published as The Old, Weird America), so would fans of British goth rock and dance pop (and, why not, post-punk) have a similar experience with A Kiss Across the Ocean.
(Quick note: the publishers subscribe to the new style rule that says that no prepositions in a title should be capitalized, regardless of length, and since I’ve long been on the lookout for an opportunity to say “Not on my watch!” I’m going to seize this one: Not on my watch! “Across” has more than four letters. It gets capitalized!) –Jim Woster (Duke University Press, dukeupress.edu)