One of the most iconic images in music is Woody Guthrie’s “This machine kills fascists” message written on his guitar in the 1940s. In Guthrie’s mind, the fascist leaders terrorizing the world at the height of World War II were gangsters exploiting the poor and oppressed for their own political gains. Those opposing fascism’s rise were heroes locked in a bitter battle between justice and corruption. In their song “This Machine,” Nova Scotian group Safeword is also taking up musical arms against a modern-day oppressor: technology.
The titular machine is a stand-in for anything tech-based that’s been killing intimacy and turning us all into dopamine addicts desperate for the next hit of social credibility. “This machine records everything / this machine needs metrics,” sings Safeword vocalist/keyboardist Karen Foster before asking, “What if we went for a drive instead? / Would you still like everything I said?” It’s a punny and cute line, but it hits the nail squarely on the head. If society wasn’t already a collective walking dead of tech junkies and social media addicts before the pandemic, our forced isolation has sent many of us (this guy right here) off the deep end. “I’m not asking for your help / I’m a little dependent,” Foster admits, adding “And I’m so mad at myself for needing this much attention.”
Safeword concedes that when it comes to the influence social media has on our culture and creativity, none of us are martyrs. Even those who proudly profess to be living tech- and social media-free are already keenly aware of what’s going on online and what potential pitfalls await them behind the next blinking cursor. The bliss of being FOMO-free that many of us are craving now can only come from being truly ignorant of tech’s influences. There’s no turning back time, sadly, but you can always turn up the volume on “This Machine” and rock your frustrations and anxieties out of your system along with Safeword.