Welcome to THE PLAYLIST, where we pick a theme and, er, make a playlist around it. Sometimes you might get an essay, other times you might get just one sentence as a precursor to the laser-focused audio delights that await below. Perhaps somewhat fittingly given the current climate, Mark Conroy has assembled 27 songs fuelled by political discord and societal upheaval. They’re all bangers, tbh…
So it’s that time of the year again. The sun is out (sometimes). Overly confident, slightly muscled pasty men emerge from the safety of their insulated homes in skin-tight tank tops, armed with nothing but the feint hope of browning. Ignorantly optimistic fathers drag out their €300 ultra-sleek Black & Decker barbeques when a sunny window emerges, only to end up admitting defeat due to inconsistent downpours, ultimately deciding that burgers taste better when grilled inside anyway. It becomes acceptable to open articles with hoary platitudes like “it’s that time of the year again”. It is, of course, The Irish Summer.
And sure, you could spend the time becoming the unwanted subject of an ill-convicted “good time had by all” Independent article, as a plucky “festival goer” and “reveller” who “flocks” with aplomb to every single irrelevant gimmick at every Electric Picnic or Body & Soul. But let’s be honest, wouldn’t you much rather immerse yourself in the deeply uncertain and upsetting geopolitical landscape that is the 21st century world? Standing in knee high muck to watch a bored Interpol half-arse for it 40 minutes doesn’t sound like such an attractive proposition any more, especially when you could instead be reminded of the deep-rooted social, ecological and economic problems that we can do next to nothing about.
So If you ever just decided to succumb to those niggling nihilistic tendencies that you’ve repressed for so many years, then this is the playlist for you! 27 songs that shed a light on those inextinguishable anxieties, paranoid sentiments and uncomfortable truths that Top 40 radio seems designed to shield you from.
We’ve got a lot of bases covered here. 2016’s queen of protest and achingly beautiful electro pop ANOHNI doesn’t just have an overbearingly, fatalistic worldview, she embraces it. ‘Drone Bomb Me’ may sound atmospheric and serene, but its lyrics paint a disquieting picture of the fear-inducing mechanics of ultra-modern warfare. Our singer, having given up, is begging for an unseen sky robot to “blow [her] up into the sea”. Not only that, she also gleefully welcomes the worrying increase in global temperature on ‘4 Degrees’ and is eager to see “the fish go belly up in the sea” and “all the tiny creatures burn”.
In the summer of Brexit and the Trump ascendancy, it’s always good to know that Radiohead will return to remind us of the dangers of nativist populism. ‘Burn the Witch’ along with its excellent, must-see music video, scratches that itch. The urgent, pizzicato string work, along with Thom Yorke’s panicky falsetto gives the song all the uneasy tension of a UKIP television spot. But this is a playlist that will offer a wide variety of social unease to sink your teeth into. There’s artists who are embittered by homophobic rhetoric (Perfume Genius), distrustful of the outside world after a traumatic sexual assault (Grimes) or horrified by the human cost of war profiteering (Bob Dylan). At least with contributions from Nena and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, we can take solace in the fact that the geopolitical climate was once so preciously perched that we came agonisingly close to full blown, global nuclear fallout.
You might also notice that the playlist ends with Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna come’, which seems like an optimistic note to finish with, implying that things might actually get better. To be honest, I just look for any excuse to put that song on a playlist, and even if it’s a tenuous link, it’s not like you’ll care. So, how are we supposed to respond to all this troubling, intractable rapidly-evolving turmoil that surrounds us? Well we could try taking the very sound advice of mod revivalists The Jam and try ‘Going Underground’, that might work. Personally I prefer the extremely well thought out, ingeniously simple solution that’s offered to us by Run the Jewels and their rowdy mate Zack De La Rocha:
“Close your eyes (and count to fuck).”