Recessionary nostaglia

With unemployment levels reaching numbers we thought we’d left behind in the 80s, there has emerged a sort of nostalgia for the other things we left behind a generation ago. The ever excellent fashion journalist Hadley Freeman was recently asked to discuss the return of shoulder-pads in her column in the Guardian’s “G2” supplement, and in the same supplement Sam Leith later wrote about how apparently we were all happiest in 1976. The problem with nostalgia, however, is that we sometimes tend to remember fondly things that really should have stayed forgotten. It is therefore worth looking at various aspects of a generation past that could possibly find themselves exhumed, regardless of whether or not they should be.

Rubik’s Cubes

It’s hard to see this fad returning. It was utterly pointless in the first place, and you had to be a super genius to complete it anyway. Sure we have Playstations now.

Great bad music

Absolutely essential! We’ve become far too clever with our musical tastes since the Noughties, what with our Kings of Leon and Band of Horses or some crowd equally brilliant but not so much that most people have heard of them. I sometimes wonder if we deliberately seek out obscure bands just to seem cool when other people ask, “who?” I’m not for an instant saying I’m above this (or below this, depending on your perspective). My favourite band is Lambchop. On the other hand, we award mass-popularity to insufferably bland acts that for the good of humanity need to stop (© Coldplay, Snow Patrol or any Scrubs soundtrack). We’re a bit self-congratulatory when we remember music from the 80s, in that we consider it naff compared to our more sophisticated contemporary ears. Regardless, few can honestly deny the toe-tapping appeal of these songs and this is something we really need to get back. There has, admittedly, been some move in this direction recently, with the likes of Lily Allen and that Katy Perry song about a poor lad who’s hot and cold all the time (he should get a nice cardie), but I really don’t think these stand up to Grandmaster Flash and Kids in America, et al. We need bands to save pop music from Louis Walsh and reclaim the naff as an art-form again. This being said, there is absolutely no need to return to the television of the 80s. Recession or not, Knight Rider was always shit and we have The Wire now.


The rest of the world may have had MTV, but for the paddies it was all Music Television: USA. This was a show that guided 80s kids on the coolest new sounds and latest trends. We do have plenty of similar outlets today, but few that are free from unwitting self-parody and ironic bullshit of NME and whathaveyou. A music show that avoids being too clever for its own good would be very welcome in today’s age. However, the problem with MTUSA is that it was a product of an age when America was seen as a refuge in recessionary times, rather than, say, the sources of it. Today “MTUSA” provides an unfortunate acronym that may serve to reflect the state of the US Federal Reserve.


What I remember most from MTUSA was the presenter’s impressive lip-fuzz, a seemingly popular trend of the day. I recall several uncles who sported similar face-fungus at the time, as well as Kevin off Coronation Street. It’s impossible to say with certainty what caused this trend (it might have been Mangum PI, but who can be sure), so it would be foolish to think we’ll never see another outbreak. We can only hope this horrible condition is behind us.

U2 recording an album worth listening to

Irrelevant. It’s not going to happen.

Custard Creams

I recall biscuits in my formative years being a very simple affair. The criterion for a good biscuit was something mildly sweet that you could dip into a cup, and so custard creams, bourbon creams, or perhaps a Rich Tea satisfied us perfectly. If we wanted to splash out we’d opt for a digestive with cholocate on it, or perhaps even a Jammie Dodger. However, things changed when we started using the term “cookies”. Suddenly the simple biscuit wasn’t good enough. We demanded niceties with chocolate chips in them. They started putting hazelnut bits in them and we weren’t even satisfied with that. We demanded whole hazelnuts, in biscuits the size of saucers. The less likely that it would fit in a cup, the better. In a way, our tastes in biscuits symbolise our universal greed during the Celtic Tiger years. As the money came rolling in, we blew in on chocolate-coated trifles (figuratively but perhaps also literally). One hopes, now that our priorities are shifting, we will once again regard the humble custard cream with fondness.


On last Monday’s Questions & Answers, one of the Dragons Den Dragons (I forget which one) argued that we’re wasting time squabbling over who’s to blame for the financial downturn, and that we should instead unite to concentrate on finding a cure. It’s a nice thought, but one easily dismissed. If we fail to establish the crisis’ causal factors, we’re only setting ourselves up for another bubble burst. I’ve already given an indirect example of this, by highlighting the continued risk of a resurgence of the moustache craze. Well, proof may come in the recent spate of Mullets around our city centres (I’m surely not the only one who’s noticed this). The trend stopped so we thought it had gone away for good. And now it’s back because we failed to address its root causes. Haircuts have as much to teach us about the recession as biscuits do.

6 Responses to “Recessionary nostaglia”

  1. March 23, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Wrong, and on so many levels; at least 3! One, pop music is shit! Seeking out obscure bands is nothing more than trying to find some decent music. I listen to a lot of 80’s music but stuff that was never in the charts. Stuff like, Killing Joke and Coil. Ha, have you ever heard of Coil? I think not, only cool muther fuckers know about Coil!

    Two, the 80’s had the best TV… The A-Team! MacGyver!! ALF!!! All staples of a healthy eye diet!

    Fuck it, I was sure there was a three to all this… I’ll get back to you on this one in a few days.

  2. 2 The Unemployed Blog
    March 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Ahh Gamma, me auld flower. I certainly agree that pop music is shit, but that’s largely what I’m saying. We need a return of pop music that’s actually decent. As it happens, no, I’ve never heard of Coil. I want to say that proves my point about obscure bands, but I’m not sure how.

    As for 80s TV, I fear nostalgia is getting the better of you. Alf was embarressingly bad. The A-Team was fun, but very, very silly. Yes, I loved MacGyver, LOVED it. But I’m terrified of watching it as an adult, as I fear I’ll come to realise it was actually just as shit as everything else I loved back then.

    I look forward to hearing the third reason I’m wrong. It’s surely not the U2 thing.

  3. March 23, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    No. 3 is the fact that you completely missed the irony in my comment. Read it back, you’ll see it… theres a twist in the tail of the two points I made… you actually spotted them but you just didn’t realise it 🙂

  4. 4 The Unemployed Blog
    March 23, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I see now, I think.

  5. March 24, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Jeez come on man, the irony is obvious in what I wrote. It’s as plain as the erection in my trousers! Don’t make me come over there and beat the shit out of you with a pair of shoulder pads!

    MacGyver is still brill by the way. I have all 7 seasons and while the first season dragged a bit, and by the last season it had all gone a bit silly… the middle seasons are still gold!

  6. March 25, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve seen Rubiks Cubes in my local Centra here repackaged as “Color Cubez”, with a Z for freshness.

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