This playlist is a mostly1980’s response to what Austin Ivers conveys so brilliantly in his exhibition Threads; obsolescence. In the 80’s, computers were the latest thing. For adults they were probably aspirational, as kids they barely registered. We watched videos, listened to records, made mix-tapes. This selection had to open with Talking Heads’ road to nowhere, as it sums up concisely what Ivers is showing: the futility of accumulation. What was expensive, desirable and new, is now junk. All those objects are now in landfill around the planet - and filling up the seas. Who could have imagined it? And can we imagine it now, as we speed around in our new cars, swiping our phones, streaming tracks we forget we ever heard.
The 80’s gets bad press for its chart music, but there was a thriving and exciting independent music scene too. As well as the great and weird bands from America -like some included here, The Dead Kennedys, The Butthole Surfers, Alice Donut and Public Enemy – in Ireland there was also a vibrant cultural exchange with our neighbours. From The Pogues’ first single about the dark streets of London, to Sinead O’Connor resolving to leave a racist England, to Stiff Little Fingers in the sectarian North, and Linton Kwesi Johnson as a Jamaican poet in Brixton – all were making important music that for me best represents the 80’s.
The songs in this selection also reflect the major theme of that decade: impending nuclear disaster. Even as children we were aware of global politics, largely due to the puppet show Spitting Image. Thatcher, Reagan, and Gorbachev were familiar faces. I remember my first protest in 1984 aged eight, when Ronald Reagan came to town. Everyone was terrorized by the prospect of nuclear fallout, the Cold War was constantly on the TV, disaster seemed just around the corner. When the Wind Blows appeared in the cinema before the main feature, and I’ve never forgotten it. Greenham Common women were on the news, CND was everywhere.
And then Chernobyl happened. Artists here that deal directly with issues of that time include Moving Hearts, The Cure, Crass, R.E.M and The Clash. Inspired also by the film aspect of this exhibition, some songs are simply about cars and films! Tracy Chapman, The Sugarcubes, and the Subhumans, join The Violent Femmes, Lou Reed and Ian Drury to bring a sense of what it sounded like in the ancient world before the internet, not that long ago. I hope you enjoy it!