November 21, 2009
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 1993, the birth of a conscious music listener, and falling in and out of love with They Might Be Giants. For earlier installments, go here.
1993 is a defining year for me, Brook Pridemore, as a musician/music obsessor (one can’t really exist without the other). Aside from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged premiere in November (the defining live document of the 90s) and Prince changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, 1993 is the year I became conscious. So, while the year may not be the best for music (certainly ‘95 and ‘97 are go-to years for “the classics”), 1993 will always evoke something of a coming of age nostalgia within me. The historical equivalent of the participant’s trophy in softball you’ve got in a box somewhere, maybe, or the barely-meeting-the-weight-requirement large mouth bass you caught when you were a kid, that ended up stuffed and mounted, a constant reminder of simpler times. 1993 is the year I came of age.
It seems innocuous now, but one February morning in ‘93, I was watching Saturday Morning cartoons with my much-younger sister. An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures that featured animated videos to two songs by quirky Brooklyn group They Might Be Giants crossed my periphery. And that was it. I had no idea what these guys looked like (as TMBG were depicted by Tiny Toons characters, you see), but I could tell just by hearing them that they looked more like me (skinny, pale, gawky) than the hip hop crews or cartoon-y hard rock bands my contemporaries were discovering. Gangbangin’ was in, but it’s hard to be a gangbanger in a lake-dominated suburb thirty miles north of the inner city of Detroit. Being a hesher was in, but I still don’t quite dig on metal, and it’s hard to be a hesher without dirt weed.
They Might Be Giants seemed like they spoke to me, personally. In the last dying days before the Internet diluted the mystery a band could wrap itself in, I went on a quest to find all of their albums to date, and learn all the lyrics. The things I had picked for my career focus to date (funny car designer, video game programmer, etc.) went out the window. I was going to be a singer like They Might Be Giants. Christmas 1993, when I got my first guitar, TMBG’s guitarist, John Flansburgh, served as my first role model. Never known for his flash, Flansburgh held the band’s quirky, percolated rhythms together with his simple, creative strumming. “Birdhouse in Your Soul” is buoyed by Flansburgh’s tic-tac bassline across it’s chorus. You may never have noticed that bouncy little line in there, but it’s an essential element to what gives the song it’s danceable backbone.
More on #10: 1993