Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Timbuk3 imagined a future made bright by nuclear holocaust

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about songs that take a look at the future.

Timbuk3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” (1986)

Like most people, I don’t know a lot of Timbuk3 songs, but I do know “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” The post-punk group’s only charting single, “The Future’s So Bright” was a smash in the mid-’80s and has popped up in various movies and TV shows ever since, including Something Wild, Kuffs, and Tommy Boy, all of which anyone with basic cable in the ’80s or ’90s has sat through multiple times.


Inspired by a witty aside between the band’s then-married songwriters, Pat and Barbara McDonald, “The Future’s So Bright” told the story of a nuclear scientist on the come-up and facing down the bright future of nuclear holocaust. And though the track is a Cold War ode to the grim outlook the band had for the world as a whole, that didn’t (and still doesn’t) really translate to casual, be-bopping listeners, like all the high school seniors who adopted the track as their class song that year. As someone whose class picked Green Day’s somewhat dark “Time Of Your Life,” I can relate.


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