Album: What A Time To Be Alive
. . .
One of the slyer songs on 2018’s angry What A Time to Be Alive harkened back to the 1980s, when we were all young and railing against the presidency of one Ronald Reagan, who — perhaps starting when the Dead Kennedys rewrote their Jerry Brown satire “California Uber Alles” as “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now” — was such a target for hardcore that my friends The Miss Alans jokingly did a song called “Reagan Sucks” that was basically four bars of speedy noise and them yelling “Reagan Sucks!!!” one time.
Of course Superchunk came out of that late 80s indie/hardcore/whatever scene, and the song “Reagan Youth” looks back at that time, when we all looked kept one eye on the sky waiting for the nukes while watching the social safety net get shredded with the other one.
95 degrees and it’s summer ’81
Window unit suffocation
Steam out on the lawn
Stretching khaki in the seats
Rubber melting on the streets
Cable’s getting cheaper but there’s something going on
And speaking of shredding, “Reagan Youth” is short, sharp and speedy, though Mac McCaughan wasn’t going to do a straight hardcore song now, so “Reagan Youth” is full of melodic guitar hooks and even the name-checking chorus is catchy as hell.
Reagan Youth taught you how to feel
Reagan Youth showed you what was real
But to tell the truth
There was more than one Reagan youth
And of course, that was the problem: we were always the minority. Maybe we were fighting the good fight, but we were not just underfunded and outgunned, the vast majority of our peers were just fine with what was going on. Which definitely took its toll as the decade wore on. Sure, Reagan was termed out by 1989, but just because he was gone didn’t mean the damage wasn’t permanent.
You can see your breath at the end of ’89
‘Cause the heat all drained away
And your friends do not look fine
Half of them go underground
Half just disappear
Either busted like a union
Or reanimate with fear
Fast-forward three decades, and all of that damage has spread like the cordyceps virus in The Last of Us, and while we’ve made some real progress in the interim the forces of fascism have never been more empowered — the fascists were even more of a minority, but they’ve also been incredibly organized — and there is the constant threat that all of that progress will be rolled away at any time because of that empowerment.
ANYWAYS, for the second post in a row, I’m all up on my soapbox instead of, you know, “staying in my lane.” Sorry/not sorry. So, I’ll point out that “Reagan Youth” is a fun and catchy punk rock song and you can just shout “Reagan Youth” along with Mac if you want to keep your brain turned off — which, as always, is a perfectly valid option!
“Reagan Youth” Live Acoustic on WFUV, 2018
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