The Hold Steady's leader Craig Finn is in the middle of a UK tour – he makes an appearance at Rough Trade West tonight (17 September), following the recent release of solo album Faith In The Future. With that forward looking via, he's made us a playlist if songs that look toward the world of tomorrow...
EL-P – The Full Retard "Throughout his career EL-P has been an amazing lyricist and producer. This song off his Cancer 4 Cure album is one of my favorites. The chorus says 'You should pump this shit like they do in the future' and the production on the song matches the sentiment. The digital blips and chirps in the background suggest the future is a bleak and anxious place. The bridge part is super unsettling somehow, a utopian vision ruined by gunshots. The video for this song is possibly my favorite music video of all time, I highly recommend taking a look."
KISS – 2000 Man "This song was, of course, originally recorded by the Rolling Stones but somehow it sounds more futuristic with the Spaceman Ace Frehley singing it, so I'm going with this version. This is from the Dynasty album where Kiss flirted with disco and achieved mixed results. They also slightly updated their costumes around this album to a more futuristic look, again with mixed results. This song is pretty astute though. The narrator is misunderstood by his kids, which means the future looks a lot like the present. However, he is having an affair with a random computer, which is a pretty good estimation of our daily lives now, and probably more so in the future."
The Beach Boys – Wouldn't It Be Nice "This has always been my favorite Beach Boys song. Like all their best work ,it seems to be sunny on the surface and somewhat sad or conflicted deeper in. This is another song that dreams of a not so distant future, one which the singer and his girlfriend are older and can do adult things. This especially includes sex and sleeping in the same bed, but also extends to a “kind of world where we belong”. So many of these future songs seem to have utopian visions. On a side note, I thought “Love and Mercy” was a super enjoyable film and Paul Dano was exceptional as a young Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys story is one of the best in rock and roll history."
Youth Brigade – Sink With California "California hardcore music from the 1980s usually had a bleak view of the future- nuclear war, dystopian dreams, increasing alienation, four more years of Reagan, etc. But this song is notable in it's prediction of their home state splitting off and falling in the ocean, as has been predicted for years. Somehow the Youth Brigade ties this potential tragedy to overzealous nationalism, which I don't totally follow, but it's a good tune. More than anything, I think this encapsulates the punk rock fatalism of the 80s about the future, and the horrid outlook as to what was yet to come."
Billy Joel – Miami 2017 "I am a Billy Joel apologist of sorts. I dig a lot of his songs and find his music just a omnipresent part of living in NYC. Here we are not too far away from 2017 and NYC doesn't quite look like what Billy predicted when he wrote this song the in mid 70s. But at the time, the city was in ruins, overrun with crime, and on the verge of bankruptcy. So this song describes a NYC apocalypse ripped from the headlines of the NY Post and Daily News. It's actually a pretty impressive song and the line where he predicts a big concert in Brooklyn certainly seems spot on. This is like Billy Joel meets Planet of the Apes, and like a lot of his songs it will likely play in New York bars forever."
John K Samson – When I Write My Masters Thesis "John K Samson is one of the lyricists I look up to most, in both his work with The Weakerthans and his solo stuff. This is from his solo record Provincial which came out in 2012. You might argue that this is more of a 'future tense' song than a song about the future, but I think this applies. Samson, or the narrator, seems to have all of his hopes and dreams pinned on finishing his masters thesis. But instead of working on it, he's playing video games. And it sounds like his girl has left him because of his inability to get on with his life. A tale many of us know all too well- an aversion to completing the things that are going to move our lives forward in a positive way. I especially love how economical Samson is in telling stories, he has a great gift for what he tells us and what he leaves out."
Prince – 1999 "This is one of a long list of songs that are about future years that are currently behind us, but this seems a great example of Y2K paranoia. When Prince wrote this song in the early 1980s he saw a shutdown in the year 2000, preceded by one big party the night before. The sky is purple, destruction is all around and Prince is still looking beautiful and playing funky music. Prince always seems to have his eye on the future, from the synth sounds in his early songs to his constant reinvention and industry hacks. Mostly though, I think of the video for this song, and the fog and lights that signaled the post apocalypse in so many 80s videos. In fact, putting this list together has really taught me to spell 'apocalypse'."
Husker Du – Newest Industry "This Bob Mould rager from Zen Arcade legitimately scared me when I first heard it. It's another one of those post collapse songs, a grim view into a future where America is really falling apart. Actually, this takes place after two different rounds of mass destruction! The delivery here is fast, angry and manic, and it really sells the ugliness and anxiety of the landscape. In Mould's future we end up back in caves and huts, a future primitive post oil world in ruins. And then he asks, rhetorically “Is that how you like it?” I think that's the part that scared me. This sort of reminds me of Mad Max and I would be curious to know if this song was influenced by that film."
Bruce Springsteen – Living In The Future "This isn't one of my all time favorite Bruce songs but I do love the album it came from, Magic, and it definitely fits the bill as a future song. This album and tour spoke a lot about the time we were living in and some of the boundaries that the Bush administration had crossed with the Patriot Act. This one seems to nod at that, as he wakes up on Election day and watches Liberty sail away. Bruce seems to be saying that the future has arrived, and it's not a positive scene."
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak It seems like a lot of concept albums are set in a future where rock and roll has been banned, and I think that's the story here. This is the first Thin Lizzy record I got, before I made sure to put my hands on each one. There's a joke people say about this song, about a jailbreak obviously being at a jail and not the mysterious “somewhere in this town” that Phil suggests, but they fail to notice that the whole city has become a jail!!!! I'm not exactly sure where the Cowboy Song and Boys are Back in Town fit into the concept of this album but it hasn't prevented me from loving all of these songs always.
STYX- Mr Roboto "I know this song sucks terribly, but I had to include it. This is from another concept record about rock and roll censorship in the future, Kilroy Was Here. It seems laughable that Styx was going to be anywhere involved in setting rock and roll free. That said, I didn't always feel this way, and the first concert I attended was Styx on this tour. A very attractive 16 year old girl sat next to us (I was 11) and she drank a whole bottle of Peppermint Schnapps before the band took the stage. At intermission she vomited and passed out. The paramedics came and took her away. Somehow I was massively impressed by all of this and decided to dedicate my life to rock and roll. Faith in the Future, indeed."
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