Artfully dropped cultural and sociological theory – particularly about the choreography of self-identity – can be found in every chapter, but even more pleasing is Reynolds’s eye for odd details ... All told this is a wonderful celebration of – and reckoning with – a generation of chancers, chameleons and lunatic geniuses.
...an engrossing intellectual history of glam rock, providing as much structure and coherence as the sprawling, protean genre will bear ... To the extent that one could accuse Reynolds of overreaching, it’s done in glam’s devil-may-care, raid-the-storeroom spirit ... In Shock and Awe, Bowie is both center of gravity and distant moon orbiting whatever new planet glam’s Big Bang has most recently brought into being ... Tawdry, ridiculous, pretentious, and crass, glam produced some of the most sublime pop music of its era. Now it has a history worthy of it.
Reynolds admits in the book’s introduction that glam is a 'fuzzy' category, overlapping with prog rock, hard rock and other subspecies. That fuzziness plays to one of Reynolds’s great strengths: his capaciousness as a critic and listener, his ability to write about all of those categories (and more) with authority and genuine interest. But that fuzziness is also inevitably a weakness; the book is littered with insights and treats, but it rarely coalesces in a fully satisfying way ... But if you’re going to have a baggy book, you want it to be written by Reynolds, a tireless researcher with an eye for entertaining diversions.