Vocalist Mike Muir and guitarist Mike Clark probably had no clue that they were speaking for many troubled youth who questioned how they could laugh tomorrow, when they could not smile today. In writing this now classic track, they gave a voice to many who found themselves in the despair of teenage angst and anger. So much of Suicidal Tendencies’ song book was a reflection on the reality that many youth faced. Conflicting emotions, conflicting things to cope with.
“Trip at the Brain” magnifies the sense of mental escape that anyone longs for. The escape of the daily grind in their heads. On reflection, the track can be looked at as another glimpse into mental health awareness at a time when it was more heavily stigmatized. Teenage depression was already touched on when ST recorded “Institutionalized” back in 1983. Trip at the Brain brought things a bit forward in time to something anyone of any age could relate to. What am I feeling? How can I escape from this feeling? I want to run away from these feelings and not have them catch up to me. I want to escape.
The title track is a perfect summary for the anger of the lost ones.
“Get Over It.”
“You’ll Be Fine”
These are some of the common ignorant responses people young and old continue to face when they try to reach out for help. Mental health is still stigmatized even with increased global awareness. How can a person laugh tomorrow when they can’t even smile today? How are they supposed to just make it dissipate? Those feelings of sadness and anger are real and not to be ignored. People are reaching out for help. People want someone to listen.
Partway through the record’s first side is one of the ultimate heavy metal anthems. The ear-splitting power of “Pledge Your Allegiance” is a slab of brutality with an easily recognizable riff that brings fans off their feet with clenched fists in the air. One questions religion and the hype of televangelists who were appearing on television asking for money. This theme would be explored in a later on another ST classic, 1990’s “Send Me Your Money”. Pledge Your Allegiance’s shouts of “ST!” and “Suicidal!” are an inside prompt to shout out the name of the band while jamming along to the song. They won audiences over by speaking to them and getting their allegiance in return. Pledge digs further by standing up to to those who speak down. Listeners could interpret that as rebellion against parents, teachers and authority figures. Again keeping the album’s overall theme of being misunderstood front of stereo speakers.
Muir’s vocal chops throughout this metal classic gave that escape to a generation of fans. They felt like he understood them and how they felt about their reality at that moment. By giving youth that voice, many were able to find strength to rebel against it. To take to the streets and turn their music up. To grab their skateboards and thrash out on the pavement, to shout out against those who may have wronged them, to gain strength to keep on going. “The Feeling’s Back” closes out this record with perfection. It punctuates the power of getting back on your feet. It is about overcoming obstacles, facing oppression and opposition from others and within oneself.
Never giving up.
“I’ve got a long way left to climb.
But I’ll still look you straight in the eye.
And I can honestly say I’ll never quit.
Not even on the day I die.”