Living In The Plastic Age was recorded by the New Wave musical group The Buggles for their album The Age of Plastic in 1980. It was written by Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, and Bruce Wolley. It was the first single for the group, but was later overshadowed by their hit Video Killed The Radio Star; however, this may be the more compelling of the two songs.
There are some groups that are able to record anthems that are still musically appealing and yet also still lyrically relevant twenty five years after they're written. Other groups write kitschy pop songs and disband within a year of recording them, fading into utter obscurity. The Buggles managed to do both here.
The group only survived intact for a single year, recording The Age of Plastic, which in 1979 and 1980 spawned this single and the slightly bigger hit Video Killed The Radio Star (at the time; the latter has become part of musical legend now) along with two long-forgotten singles and enough tracks to make up a follow up album, Adventures in Modern Recording (which quietly disappeared in 1982) before breaking up in 1980. The Age of Plastic seemed to have been relegated to the dustbins of "bands that no longer matter," until in 1981 Video Killed The Radio Star blossomed into legend.
But what of the title track from that album?
Living in the Plastic Age is basically a lamentation about the plasticity and coldness of the new culture of plastic technology. Everything is disposable and replaceable, manufactured without a soul. It's got a similar arrangement and melodicism to the better-known Buggles song and a similar theme as well.
But what sets this one apart is that it laments the loss of culture as a whole rather than just the loss of musical culture.
What are we doing? We exist in a prepackaged culture living prepackaged lives. There is no such thing as a heart in any of it, no care put into the making of any of the goods you can buy on the shelves of your local Wal Mart. People rebuild themselves from top to bottom with the latest chemicals and surgical techniques and the media sells this to us as a definition of beauty. We are becoming plastic people.
The synthesizers and almost alien sound of the song simply echoes the theme very effectively.
Basically, today, you're punished for caring. If you walk out on the streets and express your opinions that life should be preserved and protected through peaceful means, you are referred to as a focus group while soldiers march through the streets, carrying plastic guns full of bullets destined for the hearts of people. If you write a letter of disagreement with what the thought police tell you to think, you are either ignored or viewed as a fringe group.
You must agree with what they tell you or else you don't count. You must fit the mold or else you don't matter. Welcome to the plastic age.
What is this? Is this really life?
It's amazing how a heavily synthesized New Wave song can so effectively state such issues and thoughts.