The B-52s – Channel-Z

Cosmic Thing was the B-52s 1989 album which included this song. It is about an imaginary television station that only broadcasts static. But perhaps that static is a metaphor for the bliztkrieg of political issues not being addressed, that make the song a list of 1980s concerns, including:

  • space junk, laser bombs, atomic lasers falling from the sky – Reagan’s Star Wars program (the Strategic Defence Initiative that would have had weapons in space destroy incoming nuclear missiles)
  • Giant stacks blowing smoke  and waste dumps – environmental pollution and nuclear waste dumps in states such as Nevada
  • Secret wars and good old boys tellin’ lies – U.S. involvement in supporting an insurgency in Nicaragua

The B-52s sing simplistically, optimistically, about how changes are coming; that people need to turn off their television and get outside to make a difference. Get away from all the misinformation and indifference to political problems, as if the media is also complicit with the “politicrits,” not giving the full story.

Which in one small way is odd because the B-52s are an MTV-era media manipulating bunch themselves, relying as much on image as pop song hooks. (They could get all political without the bouffant hairdos and bright clothing; it must be jarring to go from the silliness of “Rock Lobster” to being lectured about Reagan’s faults in the same concert). Their bouncy new wave tunes are mostly for dancing, though this laundry list of issues still gets feet moving! Fans asked about the B-52s are not likely going to first mention their social consciousness as the prime asset.

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