The Pixies to 100 Gecs: Music therapy for the burned out Autistic soul

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.

The cover to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma album.
The cover to Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma album – one of many Floyd albums I own. Pink Floyd were also the first band I saw live, when they toured Australia in 1988

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.

Close up of record album covers standing end on end, like books on a shelf.
Just some of the LPs in my collection that I’ve lately started rediscovering

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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  1. I think they only had 2 cds at that time, and the songs are mostly sub 3 minutes, so they would have been done in about 90 minutes.

  2. Love it, Glenn. Although can’t believe you left one of my fav’s of your list, Custard. I saw them play at a tiny bar on Mary St around 1995, where they played their entire catalog in alphabetical order. It was an autistic music geeks dream. They were supported by Robert Forster, who repeatedly stopped playing mid-song to admonish audience members who were talking.

    • Oh, how remiss! I have a couple of Custard CDs in my collection. And I saw them play live a few times (along with Regurgitator and others) at the Metropolis in the basement of The Myer Centre in maybe 1990 or 91. Those days feel a long time ago now. Love your account of Robert Forster berating the audience. Too right! Custard’s entire catalogue…

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