Noisy, confrontational, and controversial, industrial music first emerged in the mid-1970s around bands and performance groups who combined avant-garde electronic music with the provocative attitude and style of punk rock. In its early days, bands such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire produced a genuinely radical form of music bent on recontextualizing the signs and methods of cultural authority in an attempt to liberate listeners from the trappings of modernity. But, as industrial music took on more and more elements of popular music over the course of the 1980s it slowly abandoned its mission. By the mid-1990s, it was seen as simply another style of pop music, and had ironically fallen into the trappings it sought by its very existence to destroy. In Assimilate, S. Alexander Reed provides the first ever critical history of this fascinating and enigmatic genre tracing industrial music's trajectory from Throbbing Gristle's founding of the record label Industrial Music in 1976, to its peak in popularity on the back of the band Nine Inch Nails in the mid-1990s, and through its decline to the present day.
Through a series of revealing explorations of works spanning the entirety of industrial music's past, and drawing on extensive interviews with musicians, record label owners, DJs, and concert promoters, Reed paints a thorough historical picture that includes not only the bands, but the structures that supported them, and the scenes they created. In so doing, he reveals an engaging story of an ideological disintegration and its aftermath. The definitive text on the genre, Assimilate is essential reading for fans of industrial music, and scholars and students of popular music alike.