Dryden said that the job of a writer is to instruct and delight. Obviously, these are ideals fit for a semi-facetious article on Sigmund Freud’s post-millenium playlist. To that end what follows should be a balance of education re: Freud, the self-contained paradigm of psychology, and jest re: Freud, the short hand for phallic humour and embarrassing slips of the tongue, all via the medium of song.
Queens of the Stoneage-Feel Good Hit of the Summer.
It is after all sex, drugs, and rock n' roll; Freud had two out of three down pat. That’s not a value-judgement on his bed-record of course, his theories were and are notorious for their fixation on sex as the root of all human psychology. He was big, too, on drugs. Literally recommended c-c-c-c-c-cocaine as a healthy stimulant for years. He might therefore regard this ironic/hedonistic anti-anthem with nostalgia, as well as admiration. I mean, trace the intake: “nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.” “Oh...” indeed.
There was a personality cult surrounding Sigmund in his day. He lead a small, hand-picked clique of devotees who were more or less forbidden from dissenting. To compare with Em, Freud preferenced sycophancy and unstinting dedication, and developed his psychoanalytical theories on this basis, whereas the young rapper recognised (albeit too late) the sick mind of his obsessed admirer, and advised him to get counselling. Does this make Mr. Mathers a more insightful and less egomaniacal figure than the father of modern psychology? I’ll leave you to draw what conclusions you may on that point.
Freud wrote in his long essay “The Future of an Illusion” that religion should be viewed as little more than a false consolation for the working classes whose lives would otherwise be unbearable drudgery. In this song, Wilco turn on the awe and pageantry of the religious farce upon its head with one opening line: “Jesus don’t cry, you can rely on me honey” –thereby reversing the “saviour’s” role to one of weakness and reliance on another human. One can argue about whether this makes Jeff Tweedy some form of deity, or a god-usurper, but it’s certain that Freud would have appreciated the artistic daring involved.
Dizzee Rascal, I Luv U.
This low, corrosive, but accurate depiction of love, plus the rank denial evinced by the choruses “I swear that’s your girl / course it ain’t my girl / she got jacked up / oh well” would have been irresistible material to the psychologist. The savage inversion of societies’ conception of love would have excited Freud, who was a strong proponent of surfacing tensions and rancours. In fact, he probably got off on such talk, the kinky Austrian bastard -an interpretation the man himself would doubtlessly have respected.
Kate Bush, Mrs Bartolozzi
Freud was no feminist, Penis Envy is something he actually put forward as a theory, which is even harder to countenance than his promotion of cocaine as a panacea. Anyway it’s all too clear that it’s men who suffer from Penis Envy, not women. Towards the end of his life Freud renounced any capability of explaining half the human race, citing his maleness as the chief barrier. He wasn’t the first, or last man to make this renunciation, either. Just try fathoming the coda of this (wonderful) piece- “Slooshy Sloshy Slooshy sloshy, get that dirty shirty clean” –you’re not even supposed to try, I think.
Morrissey- The Father Who Must Be Killed
Of the many flaws in the article, perhaps the most damaging one is the fact that Freud himself was ganz unmusikalisch –totally unmusical. In fact he was positively averse to the stuff. The only music he could muster and appreciation for was certain kinds of opera, particularly those with rich psychological plotting, such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I therefore postulate that he might have gleaned some enjoyment from this twisted, and twisting story-song. It’s an interesting piece from Morrissey’s Ringleader of the Tormentors album, and tells a tale so inscrutable that it might as well be a dream.
One of its earlier titles was “Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any)” which precisely distils the band’s pessimism. Psychoanalysis, too, in Freud’s conception, represents a rather dim view of humanity: limited by our experiences; experience as our only way of understanding/negotiating the world. So he, like Radiohead, was no vendor of good cheer, essentially describing people’s smallness and powerlessness. But, unlike Yorke ‘n’ co, Freud reckoned there would be emancipation through acceptance of reality and all its detriments; the surest route to freedom is acknowledging that which chains us all: instincts and drives like food and sex. Radiohead probably just do it to be popular.
of Montreal-Plastis Wafers
Freud conceived the Oedipal complex as a necessary tension which has to be resolved in childhood in order to transition to the adult stage of life effectively. What, then, would he make of Kevin Barnes’ apparent mid-life regression to a less-evolved, baser sexual self? The first verse here explicitly mentions that complex “I confess to really being quite charmed by your feminine effects / you’re the only one with whom I would role play Oedipus Rex.” Later, the sexual psychosis deepens “...our hands explore our human vessels, oh, like four excited spiders” and Barnes goes really psychologically wrong in order to get it musically right. I think his sanity is a worthy trade, for fare like this.
Lily Allen, Not Fair.
We also have Freud to credit with the modern parlance around repression. Before him emotionality was openly mocked, and interpersonal honesty was firmly discouraged. People communicated their feelings via analogy with the weather –in England, not much has changed. Except Allen and her ilk. Put it down to a spongy overabsorption of US influence –we’re a soggy lot anyway. This is a particularly fine example of that brand of mouthy pop which Allen was at the centre of not too long ago. With sexual meanness as a theme, and a gigglesomely unrestrained lyric, Freud would have recognised some validation of his ideas around the psychological unhealthiness of not divulging.
Big Sean feat. Nicki Minaj-A$$.
Just wanted to seem cooler than I am, hence this otherwise inscrutable inclusion. Not good enough? Ok. Better say Freud described an anal stage, and that these two seem fixated, and they’re not the only ones. I’d call for them to move on, but in terms of psychosexual development, the phallic stage is next. Stay where you are, ass aficionados.
If you liked this, check these out
Click here for more articles about Music in Sabotage Times
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook