As I type, I’m listening to 100 Gecs (‘Hollywood Baby’…er, now ‘757’, gotta type more, listen less!), my latest favourite band.
I first came across ‘the Gecs’ on Triple J while driving. Wikipedia says Triple J is: “…a national Australian radio station that began broadcasting in January 1975, intended to appeal to young listeners of alternative music.” But I still listen to it at 52, when, apparently, I should have long ago graduated to ‘Double J’, which caters for “an older adult audience.” (It makes me wonder if this is in any way related to Autism, or if I’ve just never grown up.)
I always have the radio or a CD on when I’m in the car. But I haven’t had a new favourite band in years. And that, I realise now, has been a problem.
(‘Hand Crushed by a Mallet’ Already! In fairness, the Gecs’ songs are particularly short – most barely two minutes. I am writing, you know. But clearly not quickly enough!)
Music soothes this savage beast
When I was younger, I used to lie on my belly on the living room floor playing my parents’ records. ‘Snoopy vs the Red Barron’ by The Royal Guardsmen, Peter Paul & Mary’s ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, Dr. Hook’s ‘Making Love and Music’ album (the title held no meaning for me at that age), Johnny Cash – whatever dad had, ‘Ring of Fire’ was one of his favourites, and ‘I Walk the Line’.
In my teens, as video took hold, I would watch hours of clips on a Saturday morning, and then, when we (finally) bought our own video recorder, tape them and watch then all over again on Saturday night, throughout Sunday, and during the week after school.
Even into my 20s I would spend whatever I could from my meagre resources on tapes, and then CDs, and sit and listen to complete albums over, and over, and over…
But then something happened. I stopped. Buying, listening, you name it – and hearing a disparate collection of songs on the radio, snippets of songs really, when I was driving, became the only way I heard any music at all.
Reflecting upon it now, it’s indicative of what was happening with me on a larger scale at the time, as I moved from a place of authenticity, to one of assimilation – to a place where masking became the norm and Autistic burnout the inevitable outcome.
I lost a sense of who I was and lost touch with many of the things that I loved, including music, as life took over and I became the person I thought I had to be.
But, as I wrote not very long ago on these digital pages, ‘crashing’ during 2022 did come with something of a silver living. That’s because, as I struggle to untangle myself from burnout, I’m also rediscovering who I am as I sift through the myriad pieces of myself to distinguish what I no longer want from what I truly enjoy.
(Okay, that’s enough of the Gecs for now. Their beats, licks, and lyrics are just too damn infectious! I’m bouncing and bopping rather than typing. Right, focus!)
A soundtrack to help me overcome Autistic burnout – and to live by
The title of this piece might have you assuming that if 100 Gecs are my latest favourite band, then The Pixies must have been my first. But that honour goes to Pink Floyd, or Talking Heads, or The Cure, or Genesis (back when Peter Gabriel was their front man, not Phil Collins – he’ll always be a drummer to me). It’s hard to remember now exactly who it was. But it was one of them.
My taste in music is as eclectic as my appreciation for food – and I like a lot of different types of food.
From Elvis Costello and Ani DiFranco, to My Friend the Chocolate Cake and Billy Bragg.
I have a lot of ‘blues’ and ‘classical’ in my collection, as well as folk, funk, rock, pop, grunge, and hip hop.
My taste isn’t defined by genre, but by whatever pushes my sensory buttons – in a good way!
Lately, apart from the Gecs, I’ve been rediscovering a lot of my own ‘back catalogue’ of CDs, tapes, and LPs, and digitising them, as well as making playlists from the detritus – like some patchwork musical quilt – that I’ve somehow still managed to acquire over the years, despite my neglect, as if by osmosis.
Daughter, Vance Joy, The Streets, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Interpol, Foster The People, Bloc Party, The Violent Femmes, Weezer, Badly Drawn Boy, Bjork, The Prodigy, Elliot Smith, Ben Folds Five, Something for Kate, The Postal Service, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sinead O’Conner, Moby, Iggy Pop, Dave Matthews Band, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Morcheeba, and sooooooooo much more that I can’t remember right now, or that I’m sure you don’t want to know about because you’re already tired of reading a roll call of random artists! 🙂
What makes The Pixies and 100 Gecs so special that they achieved the honour of a place in the title of this story, is that one harkens back to a time when I felt like I still had a sense of what was the strange, misshapen Autistic teenager I didn’t even know that I was, and whom I finally met, as a middle-aged man, at the end of 2022. While the other is, this very day, playing a huge role in redefining me post Autistic diagnosis.
When I say “redefining”, what I mean is that 100 Gecs symbolises what has become a real way forward for me – reengaging with my love of tunes, just sitting, for hours, listening. (Although I have to say, not everyone will ‘get’ the Gecs – they are very sweary and energetic and musically adventurous. And they use Auto-Tune extensively, which definitely isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Right honey?)
While it’s clear that slowness is playing a crucial role in my battle over burnout, so too is music. There is little I find as nourishing and invigorating. It refills me when I’m empty. It focuses me on the present, even if it was recorded 50 years ago.
As Bob Marley once said: One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.
And for Autistic people, who have to spend great swathes of life navigating a world not designed for us, relief from pain (healthy relief from pain) is a godsend.
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