Naked Raygun – “Living in the Good Times”

The strange confluence of pandemic isolation and political divisiveness has people in general (and Americans in particular) in a strange place. As expected, the impact of these times is felt acutely in music. It seems like its effects are ubiquitous with everyone from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra who edited at home performances into incredibly creative presentations when they could not even play in the same hall together to relatively small-time ska punk band Bite Me Bambi doing fan-requested covers (including really nailing “My Boy Lollipop”). Some of the creative ways that artists continued to make music during lockdown will surely stay with us, but other artists reacted to the times in their songwriting rather than their performance and I suspect that will end up more of a mixed bag. Surely, some will mine more eternal and universal truths from the peculiar experience of the last twelve months. Others may sufficiently capture the last year or more in a way that will transport us back as we continue to hash through the lessons we did and didn’t learn and that’s not bad either. I have to think though that a significant portion of the musical reaction to things like COVID and the divisiveness that led to an assault on the Capitol earlier this year will probably seem trite and shallow down the road. We’re probably too much in the weeds right now to sort all of that out, but it will be interesting to find out what holds up a year or five or ten years from now.

Naked Raygun’s new track from their forthcoming LP on WaxTrax! Records seems to me to be one that will hold up. Maybe it’s because there is some personal tragedy in its making with loss of long-time bassist Pierre Kezdy to cancer in 2020. Maybe it’s because singer Jeff Pezzati has a good bit of experience working through adversity as he continues to play music despite his Parkinson’s diagnosis. “Living in the Good Times” reminds me a bit of Hüsker Dü’s “Real World,” a song which ran against the grain of its own time with an intensity that couldn’t be dismissed even by the butts of its criticism. Likewise, Naked Raygun’s latest calls for an active opposition to what drags us down. “I’m done with all this talk about retribution. What we really need is a revolution, some evolution,” isn’t a message of passivity in the face of our troubles, but a call to arms, just not arms against each other. It is a tempered optimism though. It wants to “wake up to a brand new day,” but “we’ll see.”

Time will tell if this song holds up if and when the “good times” return, but it has two things going for it: it uses the current state of things to come to broader conclusions that will be true even if we beat the pandemic and heal our political divide and, well, it’s just a great catchy, but quirky punk song like Naked Raygun has made so many times before.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

2 thoughts on “Naked Raygun – “Living in the Good Times”

  1. Chuck

    The song itself doesn’t do much for me but I’m glad you wrote about it because you made me notice the line “I’m done with all this talk about retribution. What we really need is a revolution.” It’s a great line and it brings me back to our ongoing discussion about the differences between rebellion and revolution. I do think both the liberal and conservative sides of American culture are very caught up in retribution, whether it’s in the form of cancel culture or stealing things from Nancy Pelosi’s desk. We’re not spending enough time looking at the common ground between us and how to revolt in favor of a greater good. I don’t necessarily get that spirit from this song, but I’m glad they’re at least talking about revolution instead of retribution.

    The 2nd thing you raise that’s interesting to me is what music will end up defining this moment? I think it’s interesting to look back to the anti-war and social justice movements of the ’60s and ’70s to see what music has come to define that period. “What’s Going On” obviously comes to mind, but then I think about a group like Sly and the Family Stone and they almost feel like a footnote. That’s strange because for me, Family Stone is one of the most exciting voices for social change in my lifetime yet they don’t get the visibility of Gaye or Dylan or even Creedence Clearwater Revival who, thanks to a bunch of movies over the past 30 years, have pretty much become THE sound of anti-Vietnam war sentiment.

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  2. bobvinyl Post author

    That’s interesting about Sly and the Family Stone. I wonder if him devolving into addiction plays a part in that. Marvin Gaye died before his time, CCR broke up in their prime and Dylan has continued to make at least occasionally good music. Sly just faded into a haze of PCP.

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