Antipsychiatry playlist

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish one blog post per week. Here’s entry 13 of 52.

Here’s a playlist of thirteen songs I like with antipsychiatry themes. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, this post of mine from two weeks ago is as good a place to start as any.

I ordered the playlist not in any ranking, but in a sequence I find enjoyable for listening, akin to a mixtape from the days of old. I added very broad genre tags to each title; such categorizations are infinitely debatable, which can get boring. I simply put the tags there to aid hurried people who might prefer not to invest a lot of time trying out a type of music they hate.

After each youtube embed, you’ll find the song’s lyrics and then a paragraph from me commenting on the music. If you can suggest any additional entries for the playlist, please do so in the comments. Enjoy!

1. Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” live in Seattle 1989, originally from their 1986 album Master of Puppets. Genre: Heavy Metal

Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Labeled mentally deranged
Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred

Sleep my friend and you will see
That dream is my reality
They keep me locked up in this cage
Can't they see it's why my brain says "rage"

Sanitarium, leave me be
Sanitarium, just leave me alone

Build my fear of what's out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I'm insane
They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He's getting better, can't you tell?

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win
They see it right, they see it well
But they think this saves us from our hell

Sanitarium, leave me be
Sanitarium, just leave me alone
Sanitarium, just leave me alone
 
Fear of living on
Natives getting restless now
Mutiny in the air
Got some death to do
Mirror stares back hard
Kill, it's such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again

I must have listened to “Sanitarium” a million times in middle and high school. (I’ve never heard a metalhead call this song “Welcome Home”; everyone just calls it “Sanitarium,” an old term for psychiatric hospital.) The live footage above is from Metallica’s peak period, no doubt accelerated by, not psych drugs, but the recreational kind. It’s nice to see Lars Ulrich putting in effort on the drums, unlike in recent decades. The lyrics portray well how psychiatrists typically just make things worse, leading their locked up patients to resent them and fire back, a doomed dance so long as genuine help remains drowned out by corporate volume. But it’s a little silly to imagine hospitalized patients staging a rebellion; realistically, people confined in in-patient settings are far too drugged and beaten down to resist much, and meanwhile, getting with the program, or pretending to, is how patients get discharged. I once saw a tall, muscular black patient repeatedly insist, for days, to the staff that he didn’t like how he was being treated. He talked with other patients, suggesting that they too speak up. The other patients kept their distance; plenty of patients in general nowadays say their hospitalizations are helpful, comparing them to worse family/friend situations instead of to what’s possible if people just tried. Anyway, the staff kept giving the outspoken black man Thorazine pills, and as far as I ever saw, he was made sluggish, tamping down on his efforts. Back to the song, I like Kirk Hammett’s melodic guitar solos early on. The fast section ending this tune, like the equivalent fast section ending many metal songs, sounds good, though a bit generic to me. A frenzied solo plays and cymbals bang, as more or less as expected. Thankfully the underlying chord progression is dramatic and enjoyable.

2. Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” the single from their 1983 self-titled debut album Suicidal Tendencies. Genre: Metal/Punk crossover

Sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn't work out the way I want it to.
And I get real frustrated and, like, I try hard to do it and I, like, take my time and it doesn't work out the way I want it to.
It's like I concentrate on it real hard but it just doesn't work out.
And everything I do and everything I try, it never turns out.
It's like, I need time to figure these things out.
But there's always someone there going: "Hey Mike, you know, we've been noticing you've been having a lot of problems lately, you know? Maybe you should get away and, like, maybe you should talk about it, you'll feel a lot better."
And I go: "No, it's okay, you know. I'll figure it out, just leave me alone, I'll figure it out, you know. I'm just working on myself."
And they go: "Well you know, if you want to talk about it, I'll be here, you know. And you'll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it. So why don't you talk about it?"
I go: "No, I don't want to, I'm okay, I'll figure it out myself."
But they just keep bugging me, and they just keep bugging me, and it builds up inside.

So you're gonna be institutionalized
You'll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes
You won't have any say
They'll brainwash you until you see their way.
I'm not crazy — Institution
You're the one that's crazy — Institution
You're driving me crazy — Institution
They stuck me in an institution,
Said it was the only solution,
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

I was in my room and I was just, like, staring at the wall thinking about everything,
But then again, I was thinking about nothing.
And then my mom came in and I didn't even know she was there.
She called my name and I didn't hear her and then she started screaming: "MIKE! MIKE!"
And I go: "What, what's the matter?"
She goes: "What's the matter with you?"
I go: "There's nothing wrong, Mom."
She goes: "Don't tell me that, you're on drugs!"
I go: "No Mom, I'm not on drugs, I'm okay, I'm just thinking you know, why don't you get me a Pepsi?"
She goes: "No, you're on drugs!"
I go: "Mom I'm okay, I'm just thinking."
And she goes: "No, you're not thinking, you're on drugs! Normal people don't be acting that way!"
I go: "Mom, just get me a Pepsi, please. All I want is a Pepsi."
And she wouldn't give it to me.
All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me.
Just a Pepsi.

They give you a white shirt with long sleeves
Tied around you're back, you're treated like thieves
Drug you up because they're lazy
It's too much work to help a crazy.
I'm not crazy Institution
You're the one who's crazy  Institution
You're driving me crazy  Institution
They stuck me in an institution,
Said it was the only solution,
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

I was sitting in my room and my mom and my dad came in, and they pulled up a chair and they sat down.
They go: 'Mike, we need to talk to you."
And I go: "Okay, what's the matter?"
They go: 'Me and your mom have been noticing lately that you've been having a lot of problems, and you've been going off for no reason and we're afraid you're going to hurt somebody, and we're afraid you're going to hurt yourself! So we decided that it would be in you're best interest if we put you somewhere where you could get the help that you need."
And I go: "Wait, what are you talking about, WE decided!? MY best interests?! How do you know what MY best interest is? How can you say what MY best interest is? What are you trying to say, I'M crazy? When I went to YOUR schools, I went to YOUR churches, I went to YOUR institutional learning facilities?! So how can you say I'm crazy?'

They say they're gonna fix my brain
Alleviate my suffering and my pain
But by the time they fix my head
Mentally I'll be dead.
I'm not crazy  Institution
You're the one who's crazy  Institution
You're driving me crazy  Institution
They stuck me in an institution
Said it was the only solution
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

Doesn't matter, I'll probably get hit by a car anyways.

Unfortunately I never really checked out Suicidal Tendencies besides this one particular song, an MTV hit in its day. The lyrics are probably pretty relatable for many teenagers even today. One of the interesting facts about severe mental health problems is that they usually begin — plenty of exceptions, but usually — during adolescence, when people are expected to transition from childhood to “adulthood,” which is what we call complicity with corporations and their ancillaries (such as the education system) and the adoption of non-philosophies like Don’t think too hard, don’t care too much, get a job any job. There are a lot of ways to bail on this “adulthood,” and one of them is to develop the semi-involuntary, semi-voluntary capability to escape into altered states, especially when suffering extreme emotions, a kind of “non-compliance” with the corporate/military world that surrounds everyone. Thus fittingly, the lyrics of “Institutionalized”, and many other songs on this list, portray characters’ teenage years. I don’t know much about singer Mike Muir, who formed the band as a teen himself, but his vocalizations of the run-on sentence lyrics sound like he lived something like the lyrics describe, see for instance his use of psych industry jargon with the phrase “institutional learning facility.” Musically, I like the dramatic tension created by the chromatic chord progression in the chorus, chords going up and down over and over by just a half step. There’s also a neat bit on the electric guitar that’s easy to miss between about 1:34 and about 1:40, palm-muted arpeggios, I think in the middle of the guitar neck, that sound really dissonant and abnormal/deviant (insane) for a song’s verse section. I also like how in the music video, Muir’s bandmates in their eye-catching white car function as his rescuers; Muir’s existential answers rest with them, and at the video’s close, in the front passenger seat, he rides off with his comrades into the night.

3. Dead Kennedys’ “Insight” from their 1987 album Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death. Genre: Punk

Who's that kid in the back of the room?
Who's that kid in the back of the room?
He's setting all his papers on fire
He's setting all his papers on fire
Where did he get that crazy smile?
Where did he get that crazy smile?
We all think he's really weird
We all think he's really weird

We never talk to him
He never looks quite right
He laughs at us, we just beat him up
What he sees escapes our sight
Sight!

We never see him with the girls
We never see him with the girls
He's talking to himself again
He's talking to himself again
Why doesn't he want tons of friends?
Why doesn't he want tons of friends?
Says he's bored when we hang around
Says he's bored when we hang around

We never talk to him
He never looks quite right
He laughs at us, we just beat him up
What he sees escapes our sight
Sight!

We're all planning our careers
We're all planning our careers
We're all planning our careers
He says we're growing old

I really like this song. It’s short, like so many Dead Kennedys and punk songs in general are. Having grown up on metal, I’m always like, “Where’s the guitar solo?” Anyway, check out the lyrics: they’re told from the perspective of the conformist teens at school, who can’t fathom someone who gets “bored” with them and doesn’t need “tons of friends.” The chorus has some good musical humor that matches the lyrics, not just singer Jello Biafra’s goofy modulation of the word “sight” (right after “escapes our”), but that bass line too. I’m not sure how to characterize it, except both the bass line and the guitar chords in the background are really Beginner 101 stuff musically, and that serves to highlight the stupid conformity of the song’s narrators. Jello Biafra dancing around like a goofball on stage makes it even more indicting somehow… a little like their improvised(?) live song “Night of the Living Rednecks” from Portland Oregon in 1979 — which also mentions pretending to be a mental patient. Back to “Insight,” a quick dissonant chord progression ends the song, with Biafra’s lyrics hitting a usual point for him, the barrenness of careerism.

4. Daniel Mackler’s “The Psych Med Song” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

Prozac Buspar Xanax too
Haloperidol for you
Zoloft Zyban Trazodone
Antabuse and Methadone

If neuroleptics make you shake
then Benztropine you must take
They profit from the drugs they sell
From the side effects as well

Thorazine Amphetamine
Luvox Carbamazapine
Clozapine and Stelazine
Protripyline lamotrigine

Valium and Ativan
viagra for the modern man
But now some ladies take it too
Off-label is good for you!

Abilify and Mellaril
Klonopin Anafrinil
Naltrexone oxazepam
Rozerem triazolam

Celexa went generic, oh
So let's brand name it Lexapro
Tweak the formula a touch
Sells for thirty times as much

Venlafaxine Doxepin
Benificat and Ambien
Cymbalta and Adderall
Serzone and Propanolol

Bupropion does not sound fun
So market it as Wellbutrin
If its drug name makes you chafe
Change its name so it sounds safe

Effexor and Vistaril
Lunesta and Tofranil
Librium and Nembutal
Zeldox Phenobarbital

It takes a town to raise a kid
But barring that there’s Ritalin
Pills are good for kids I know
The FDA it told me so

Topomax and Trilafon
Depakote and Geodon
Methylin Modafinil
Dexedrine and Dogmatil

Lobotomy has since evolved
Nowadays there’s Risperdal
Zyprexa shrinks a monkey’s brain
You tell me now who’s insane

Nardil Paxil Elavil
Prolixin and Seroquel
Moban Marplan and Navane
Benadryl and Loxitane

Lithium will soothe your mood
If it doesn’t poison you
If you think they’re danger free
Buy the Brooklyn Bridge from me

Mirtazipine Nortriptyline
Procyclidine fluphenazine
Eldepryl and Loxapine
Flurazepam Desipramine
Symmetrel Reboxetine
Halcion Trimipramine 

La la la—la la la
La la la la la la….

“The Psych Med Song” is quite charming, the lyrics and the video both. The rhythm guitar parts are simple and clean, and over them the song has that little silly cute melody on the thin strings (reminding me somehow of the goofy beep melodies in Kraftwerk’s 1981 song “Pocket Calculator“). “The Psych Med Song” really shows what a musician can accomplish by merely using a flawless, even if simple, chord progression chugging away in the background, a nice memorable melody on the guitar repeating a few times (toward the end with harmony), and then clever lyrics with quality singing. The subject is something Mackler knows intimately from over a decade of experience as a therapist and documentary filmmaker, so that clearly touches his singing, and you can hear it in his voice.

5. Daniel Mackler’s “Bullshit” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

They tell me my problem’s genetic,
I'm born with a flaw in my brain
They tell me I need medication,
and force me to bury my pain

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

Their pills make me shaky and sweaty,
I fear that they’re breaking my will
They told me that this is quite normal,
and added another new pill

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They put me inside a straitjacket,
they locked me inside of a cage
They inject me with Haldol to calm me,
yet wonder why I'm full of rage.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They give me a shrink I can talk to,
but she is just spiritually dead.
She only repeats the same question:
“Are you still taking your meds?”

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They forcefed me E. Fuller Torrey,
But he is sadistic and gross.
I asked them about Peter Breggin,
They replied by increasing my dose.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

Their studies are so scientific,
and based on assiduous work.
But they don’t share their affiliations
with Lilly and Janssen and Merck.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They absolve all of my traumatizers,
the horrors that they did to me.
They tell me to put it behind me,
and say that I need ECT.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

I said I think I can recover,
And taper off all of these meds.
They tell me that’s just my delusion,
An illness that lives in my head.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

A very combative song here from Daniel Mackler. His three songs in this playlist are all available on his 2009 album, which I still need to purchase myself. The rhythm guitar on “Bullshit” plays along steadily in the song’s background, like in “The Psych Med Song,” except instead of 4/4 time, “Bullshit” is in 6/4, sounding akin to a music box. I like the descending scalar runs from the lead guitar; it fits the 6/4 time somehow, like we’re placed into this dreamy world, except it’s not a good one; it’s the rose-tinted glasses dreamy world of conventional psychiatry, where if you just keep taking your “meds,” everything will be fine, no need to question or research who came up with the chemical imbalance theory and what the arguments for and against it are. The lyrics do a great, concise job of explaining why just going along with everything is bullshit and what’s really at stake.

6. Daniel Mackler’s “Little Bottles” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

Little bottles in the cabinet
Little bottles full of chemicals
Little bottles from the doctor
Little bottles for your head.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

There's Zyprexa and there's Prozac
And Ritalin and lithium
And Xanax and Risperidal
And the MAOIs
They're for depression and bipolar
And anxiety and schizophrenia
And for panic and for smoking and PTSD.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

But the people who take them
Often get all sorts of funny side effects
Like twitching and weight gain
And some things that are worse
Like loss of feelings
And loss of passion
Loss of focus and no erections
And addictions and heart disease
And sometimes suicide.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

Yet the shrinks all recommend them
With their thousand-dollar consultations
But you should trust them
Because after all, half the shrinks take them too

Numb the symptoms, ditch the therapy,
Support the pharmaceutical industry
Deny the traumas that caused the misery
And pass them all on to your kids.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

“Little Bottles” is very sad… It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with that simple rhythm guitar in the background (now mostly in 3/4 time), a singer singing of something he’s very experienced with and passionate about, and that repetition of There’s a green pill / And a pink pill / and a blue pill / and a yellow pill. When all is said and done, when all the fancy corporate science studies and voted-into-existence diagnostic codes and abusive legal jargon are over with, once we’ve finally finished hearing the multisyllabic vocabulary from above, then the traumatized person is left alone in the bathroom with a bottle of green pills, pink pills, blue pills to swallow… a ritual that says, You can’t take care of your mind without these, plus all the adverse side effects and no understanding of why extreme, altered emotional experiences are happening to the patients and increasingly more and more of humanity. Continuing to “Deny the traumas that caused the misery” will have really bad long-term consequences for everyone. Thankfully via Twitter and other sources, everyone can see people really risking themselves to improve the world, from climate activist Greta Thunberg to the numerous examples amplified by @YourAnonCentral (see also @yaccreate for solely good news). We can learn things to try out ourselves; we can empower ourselves.

7. Daniel Johnston’s “The Story of an Artist” from his 1982 album Don’t Be Scared. Genre: Lo-fi, outsider

(I don't know.
It's like when you go to read your own poetry
And you get all choked up.)

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

Everyone and friends and family
Saying, "Hey, get a job!
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?"

"We don't really like what you do
We don't think anyone ever will.
It's a problem that you have,
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old.
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

The artist walks alone
Someone says behind his back,
"He's got his gall to call himself that!
He doesn't even know where he's at."

The artist walks among the flowers
Appreciating the sun.
He does this all his waking hours
But is it really so wrong?

They sit in front of their TVs.
Saying, "Hey, this is fun!"
And they laugh at the artist,
Saying, "He doesn't know how to have fun."

The best things in life are truly free.
Singing birds and laughing bees.
You got me wrong, says he.
The sun don't shine in your TV.

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old.
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

Everyone and friends and family.
Saying, "Hey, get a job!
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?"

"We don't really like what you do
We don't think anyone ever will
It's a problem that you have
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others just like to watch the world.

“The Story of an Artist” is the only song I know by Daniel Johnston. He died in 2019; he was diagnosed with manic-depression and spent time in psychiatric hospitals. There’s a documentary about him that I haven’t seen. The lyrics are great. They make me want to spend more time outdoors instead of at my day job… The music, well, it reminds everyone that technical ability — so often prioritized to the exclusion of everything else by music teachers, music schools, etc. — is really not that important compared with creating/performing from the heart.

8. The Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist” from their 2000 debut album Since I Left You. Genre: Electronica

(Mr Kirk:) Is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill today?
(Ms Fishborne:) Mr Kirk, Dexter's in school.
(Mr Kirk:) I'm afraid he's not, Ms Fishborne. Dexter's truancy problem is way out of hand.
The Baltimore County school board have decided to expel Dexter from the entire public school system.
(Ms Fishborne:) Oh Mr Kirk, I'm as upset as you to learn of Dexter's truancy.
But surely, expulsion is not the answer!
(Mr Kirk:) I'm afraid expulsion is the only answer.
It's the opinion of the entire staff that Dexter is criminally insane!

That boy needs therapy, psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy, purely psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy
Lie down on the couch! What does that mean?
You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!
What does that mean? That boy needs therapy
I'm gonna kill you, that boy needs therapy
Play the kazoo, let's have it tune
On the count of three.
That, that, that, that, that boy...boy needs therapy
He was white as a sheet
And he also made false teeth

Avalanche is above, business continues below

Did I ever tell you the story about—
Cowboys! Mi—mi—midgets and the Indians and frontier psychiatrist
I, I felt strangely hypnotized
I was in another world, a world of 20,000 girls
And milk! Rectangles, to an optometrist, a man with a golden eyeball
And tighten your buttocks, pour juice on your chin.
I promise my girlfriend I'd—the violin, violin, violin

Frontier Psychiatrist.
Frontier, frontier, frontier, frontier
Frontier, frontier, frontier, frontier

That boy needs therapy, psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy, purely psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy
Lie down on the couch, what does that mean?
You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!
What does that mean? That boy needs therapy
I'm gonna kill you, that boy needs therapy
Ranagazoo, let's have a tune
Now when I count three
That, that, that, that, that boy...boy needs therapy
He was white as a sheet
And he also made false teeth

Frontier Psychiatrist

Can you think of anything else that talks, other than a person?
Uh um, uh um, a bird? Yeah!
Sometimes a parrot talks
Ha ha ha ha ha !!!!
Yes, some birds are funny when they talk...
Can you think of anything else?
Um, a record, record, record?

“Frontier Psychiatrist” is an electronica collage of surreal samples and lyrics set to a hypnotizing drum beat and a repetitive chromatic progression (up and down a single half step) with various melodies coming and going on top of it. Kind of like how in psychiatric hospitals, patients are recommended to create collages with glue sticks, infantilizing, as if they’re elementary school students. The song, especially with the extremely surreal music video (be sure to watch it!), captures the weird insanity of Freudian philosophy. The video shows old white psychiatrists in suits jabbing their pointing fingers and saying over and over “That boy needs therapy!” while bizarre mental health memes float by: patients lying on a couch, odd references to sex, the repetition of “What does that mean?” (something you must pay a psychoanalyst to find out), depictions of legal power (expelling Dexter from the school system), and more. The song sounds like the internal world of someone dreaming or being psychoanalyzed. Regarding the infectious music (see what I did there), it’s amazing what artists can create when they follow their own curiosity instead of others’ expectations. This song isn’t something generic you’d expect from commercial radio or similar safe sources, but surprisingly, the song did well commercially, including on radio.

9. Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” single from their 1982 album Call of the West. Genre: New wave

I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older.
I turn the switch and check the number
I leave it on when in bed I slumber.

I hear the rhythms of the music
I buy the product but never use it.
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can't understand, just what does he say?

I'm on a Mexican radio
I'm on a Mexican radio
I dial it in and tune the station
They talk about the U.S. inflation.
I understand just a little
No comprende--it's a riddle.

I'm on a Mexican radio
I'm on a Mexican radio

I wish I was in Tijuana
Eating barbequed iguana.
I'd take requests on the telephone
I'm on a wavelength far from home.

I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
I dial it in from south of the border
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can't understand, just what does he say?

Radio radio…

It might be a little off (deviant, abnormal) to consider Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” an antipsychiatry song, but to me it counts as one somehow. The singer’s radio tuner-like vocal modulations, the persistence of the hyped-up electronica beat (resembling radio equipment or medical machinery), and the mind-bending bleeps at the start and following the choruses, sound like a depleted mental state feels, everything stressed, tense, and crazed… The lyrics express the info-junkie’s addiction to unusual sources of information, whether the border blasters (unregulated radio stations) that inspired this song, or the less known corners of the Internet today; and, some degree of that info-addiction appears common in people with severe mental health problems, in my experience. Perhaps too much of our technology just makes our mental lives worse. That being said, “Mexican Radio” is a very fun song, and without strong conduits to important knowledge (including contemporary samizdat), people just stay stuck in the default corporate/military echo chamber. The character in the lyrics is “on a wavelength far from home.” That’s similar in feel to the pursuit of unusual interests often wrongly categorized as characteristic of mental problems instead of as healthy curiosity. I guess the question is, will the character’s hobby/passion hurt or help the person? The character remains dedicated to radio regardless.

10. Nujabes’ “The Sign” from his 2005 album Modal Soul. Genre: Nu Jazz

Do we wanna watch it fall apart?
Every time I walk, I watch
I look, I notice, I observe, I read the signs
And the signs are pointing in the wrong direction
The signs are not naming the streets
Or leading me to the highway
The signs are naming names.
Tombstones to mark the death of children not even born
And I don't mean abortion, I mean what is to come
The signs are telling me to turn back around
The signs are telling me to research my past
The signs are telling me to learn from my mistakes
The signs are asking me questions.
Do you wanna watch it all fall apart?
Do you have any control?
Is there anything that you can do?
Time is not a nice person
I know because the sign said it
Time can be generous but ultimately time is indifferent
Time does not give two damns or a fuck
So what will you do?
What will we do?

So I'm in the middle of the street talkin' to the signs
And people are lookin' at me pointing and laughing
Like, "This mothafucker's crazy!"
But do they not see the signs?
Do you not see the signs?

If there is one thing in this world
That you can depend on
That you can bet your last dollar on
It's the ignorance of the American people
But still I have faith
And still I read the signs
And they are indeed there
Some of us are lost and will not find our way
No matter what the signs say
Some of us do not see the signs because we are too busy shopping
Some of us do not see the signs because we can't help but stop and look at the accidents and stare
We are in a daze, we are amazed by the world's displays
Some of us do not see the signs because we are giving spare change to the homeless
We are getting gas, we are volunteering for duty, and we are watching television
We are driving around in circles on spinners and we are working eight to six
We are on our way to the club
We are high, we are drunk, and we are sober
And we do not see the signs
We are listening to a moron babble
We are listening to tongues that lie
We give them an ear, we give them a hand, we give them both eyes
So we cannot see the signs.

Slow, there are children playing in the streets
And they cannot read the signs
They are only children.
Stop. Stop!
I fear there is no U-turn
And that this road dead-ends
Because we cannot read the signs
Do you not see the signs?
We must read the signs
And we must turn around
We must turn around
We gotta turn this shit around
And we gotta read the signs

We must read the signs...
We must read the signs...
We must read the signs...
We gotta read the signs...
We gotta turn this shit around...
We gotta turn this shit around...
We gotta read the signs...

The late Nujabes’ song “The Sign” has some really chill music. It’s great to hear an upright bass after all the fretted electric basses in the previous songs on this playlist. The piano is very pretty, and the rain stick (I think that’s what’s used) provides a soothing rhythm throughout. In front of this calming instrumental backdrop, Nujabes collaborator Pase Rock gives a strong, slightly abrasive spoken word performance. The lyrics express frustration with conformity, ignorance, and just going along with things, while at the same time valuing persistence (“And still I read the signs”) and some degree of optimism, that things might could be turned around. The subject of the lyrics is evocative of the delusions of reference experience in altered states, in which everyday perceptions seem to present exaggerated personal meanings, or grandiose personal salience, like supranormal stimuli does in various addictions (e.g., amphetamine seems to reveal that you’re special…but actually you’re just high).

11. A Tribe Called Red’s “We Are the Halluci Nation” from their 2016 album We Are the Halluci Nation. Genre: Electronica

We are the tribe that they cannot see
We live on an industrial reservation
We are the Halluci Nation
We have been called the Indians
We have been called Native American
We have been called hostile
We have been called Pagan
We have been called militant
We have been called many names
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the human beings
The callers of names cannot see us, but we can see them
We are the Halluci Nation
Our DNA is of earth and sky
Our DNA is of past and future
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the evolution, the continuation
Halluci Nation
The Halluci Nation
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the Halluci Nation

The private school, Western philosophy, pro-psychiatry world I grew up in would call it a stretch to suggest that it could have a serious harmful effect on a person’s mental health to walk around where genocide happened while not caring or taking action about it. From all I’ve learned in the last half decade, it’s really obvious such things do have effects on us. Just like savants can memorize mass amounts (or some people can’t forget anything), it’s completely sensible to suggest that regularly driving past First Nation centers or reservations would stir up the subject in people’s minds, even when they try to ignore it. Not in the sense that psychiatrists might accept, as if a little imaginary particle (say) floats from the reservation and penetrating an individual’s barriers and lodging itself into their psyche, causing abnormality. But rather, that we’re all trying to live in this weakened, self-destructive web, surrounded by pollution and other corporate-caused problems, while psychiatrists lecture us about and drug us into showing up for corporate work (or for corporations’ ancillaries) while maintaining a “good work ethic” and being “realistic” and all that, while our human needs are very, very different than our day jobs. If we don’t meet our needs, and instead file bureaucratic paperwork all day in some office job like members of the Imperial Civil Service, we might space out enough to forget our pains, but they’re still there along with the unmet needs, and rear their heads eventually. I like how early on in the song, the lyrics list various insults First Nations peoples have received, and then the song says: “The callers of names cannot see us, but we can see them.” Since their pseudo-scientific justifications are garbage, psychiatrists (after bullying or intimidating patients into not researching for themselves), basically are just name-calling others. You’re an autistic, you’re a bipolar, you’re a schizophrenic, you’re a this, you’re a that. And patients sometimes get so into becoming “consumers” of products produced for their particular label-from-above that they (in one case I saw) tattoo their DSM code on an ankle — the patient I knew who did that, later committed suicide, sadly. People forget the “earth and sky,” the “past and future.” Sure, people might pay some quick lip service to Nature and interconnected, transgenerational history, but when you look at where most of their time/effort goes, psychiatry focuses on maintaining the status quo and telling you it’s “unrealistic” to resist/replace the system in your own life. Ask your psychiatrist/therapist if you should quit your job, sell your possessions, and go defend natural resources with other water protectors as people I’ve known personally have done at great risk to themselves, and see what your mental health professionals advise you to do. So the real hallucination is replacing living in harmony with the environment, with driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic to weekly psychiatrist appointments to find out what you’re permitted to believe to stay “realistic.” And people (for a while anyway) “cannot see” this, but those underfoot “can see them.” And with those underfoot is where “the evolution, the continuation” lies, not in gated communities. As for the music, I like the keyboard’s tone, the reverb and vibrato on the notes. The driven drumbeat is also powerful and declarative.

12. David Rovics’ “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” from his 2007 live album The Commons, originally from his 2004 album Songs for Mahmud. Genre: Folk

Alex is a member of my record label
Teenager though he is
He joined Ever Reviled Records
And the indie music biz
His parents didn't like such turns of events
So they called up a couple of thugs
Send him back to Utah, lock him up
And pump him full of drugs
They say he's got problems with authority
Yes this is what they claim
And their psychiatric analysis
Has even got a name

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

If you think George Bush is a moron
And Tony Blair's a liar
If you fantasize about setting
Your local Wal-Mart on fire
If you don't like Tom Brokaw
And you think he's full of it
If you feel a Rush Limbaugh punching bag
Might be kinda fun to hit
If bombing other countries
Makes you feel appalled
You have got a problem
And this is what it's called

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

If you think school is boring
And your teacher is a fool
If you don't like your Congressman
And you called him a corporate tool
If you were not standing
To sing "Save the Queen"
If you turn down hamburgers
And eat rice and beans
We've got a diagnosis
No matter whether you agree
Just do what the doctor tells you
Thank god for psychiatry

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

“Oppositional Defiant Disorder” is only the second David Rovics song I’ve known; the first was “I’m a Better Anarchist Than You,” on youtube here live in Seattle 1995. When I used to write music, I’d have multiple parts going at once, threaded together, more than I could play singlehandedly or even with a second bandmate. So I’m very impressed when much is done with little, as in “Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” just acoustic guitar and vocals. The rhythm guitar is pretty straightforward. The lyrics are clever and fun. A little formulaic compositionally, but a nice, enjoyable song on topic.

13. Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” from their 1983 album Metal Health. Genre: Heavy Metal

Well I'm an axe-grinder, piledriver
Momma says that I never never mind her
Got no brains, I'm insane
The teacher says that I'm one big pain.
I'm like a laser, six-string razor
I got a mouth like an alligator.
I want it louder
More power
I'm gonna rock ya till it strikes the hour.

Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad

Well I'm remonstrated
Outdated
I really want to be over-rated.
I'm a finder and I'm a keeper
I'm not a loser and I ain't no weeper.
I got the boys to make the noise
Won't ever let up
Hope it annoys you!
Join the pack
Fill the crack
Well now you're here
There's no way back.

Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Metal Health'll cure your crazy
Metal Health'll cure your mad
Metal Health is what we all need
It's what you ought to have

Bang your head
Wake the dead
We're all metal mad 
It's all you have
So bang your head
And raise the dead
Oh yeah!
Metal Health
It's not too bad, bad, bad

Bang your head! Metal health'll drive you mad
Oh get your straitjackets on tonight, oh
The bad boys are gonna set you right!
Rock on, Rock on, Rock on
Bang your head!
Metal health'll drive you mad
Bang your head!

This anthemic song is pretty cheeky. “Get your straitjackets on tonight”? Rudy Sarzo plays his loud bass lines with massive staccato, emphasizing the separateness of each individual note, the way a lot of ’70s and ’80s metal bassists did. “Metal Health” was probably intended to simultaneously get radio play (it’s easy on the ears, nothing complicated structurally or with the notes) — the album was the first in heavy metal to top the Billboard 200, displacing the Police’s Synchronicity record — and piss off worried parents, thus appealing to “non-compliant” teenagers. The album cover art (shown in the youtube thumbnail embedded above) has a guy in a straitjacket next to the words METAL HEALTH. I think that speaks for itself. Hey, gotta rebel somehow.

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This blog post, Antipsychiatry playlist, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/04/03/antipsychiatry-playlist/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

2 comments ↓

#1 The Inimitable Mike Muir on 04.04.21 at 11:50 am

Awesome playlist! A couple of other anti-psych tracks, in the good-ol’-days Suicidal Tendencies vein…

(1) “Trip at the Brain”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDheLViZbrk

You get the satire on the whole psychiatry thing here by the obvious quack they cast as the doctor in the vid. And then there’s the part where the “ideal” family enjoys a brain barbecue picnic (including the dog!)… and then there’s the stripping nun (inner fantasies revealed?)… and then there’s the in-your-face military recruiter guy (just… yuck). Begs the question: which one of us is really crazy?!

(2) “Therapy”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4eqC3DX_oE

So in addition to Suicidal Tendencies, I also had this early 90s funk band called Infectious Grooves, feat. Robert Trujillo on bass (man, that guy can do it all… in this vid he makes his own cover of Cliff Burton’s “Anesthesia” look like child’s play!).

But wait! There’s more: Here we’ve also got an obviously promotional cameo by none other than a very dapper (I must say) post-80s/post-lipo Ozzy Osbourne!

***
…because what playlist can’t be rounded out with a bit of early 90s nostalgia-schlock? Well, happy listening!

#2 Douglas Lucas on 04.05.21 at 11:33 pm

Wow, thanks so much! These two songs are amazing!

“Trip at the Brain”: Holy shit, that guitar tone during the verses! That palm muting and tone! I wonder what gear setup that was, and what tricks the guitarist employed with his right hand to get that crunch. It sounds a little like early Testament meets early Metallica, but better. Those sorts of riffs are not all that complicated compositionally, so it’s the attitude and tone that make them really shrine, as in this case. Thankfully the bass guitar is turned up loud too, which really helps round out the sonics during the verses, not to mention the great little bass lick during the intro. Then in the chorus, the drummer’s fast hits on the ride are really nice, complexity that’s unfortunately all too rare in “accessible” music. The break-down section, introduced by the bass solo of fully diminished arpeggio-ish stuff, intentionally played a little out of tune creating a ‘going insane’ effect…in the break-down section, the singing — and in the music video, the dancing by the doctor — is great. It’s like, the psychiatrist is revealed to be a messed up person himself, dancing at 3:30 (a weird ivory tower bureaucrat-academic’s parody of Muir’s street-smart dancing), holding up the toast mentioned in the lyrics – the lyrics foreshadowing the increasingly absurdist/goofy direction Muir headed in over time, as I understand it. “Welcome ’cause I’m the host with the most / Now here’s a little toast / Don’t think of nothing ’cause you’ll put your mind on course” … The burnt toast is like the common saying from back then, “you’re toast!” (ruined, dead); in the lyrics (without the video) it’s an impressionistic phrase, art being non-linear unlike, say, nonfiction or blogs… I love the outsider guy in the video’s frame story, digging through the trash, finding the brain in there, and undiagnosing it. And as for the stripping nun (and her non-wig hair omg), well, where’s my time machine to the late ’80s early ’90s? Schlock may be, but anyone looking for Mozart in Muir might be barking up the wrong psycheye,uh,tree.

Will reply re “Therapy” later

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