Albums I Grew Up On: Butt Rock vs. Geek Rock

Previously: Synthpop Sisters

Today I am taking a look at two diametrically opposing albums from my past which represent a conflict as old as the dawn of man. Brawn vs. brains. Jock vs. nerd. Cool hair vs. big glasses. Actually, forget I mentioned hair.

Bon Jovi: New Jersey

When I was in 8th grade, my cousin Nathan moved to Utah and we became good friends. He made me a copy of his New Jersey cassette, thus introducing me to "butt rock." The album had all the key elements of the genre—fist pumpers ("Lay Your Hands On Me, Bad Medicine"), power ballads ("I'll Be There For You, Living in Sin"), and the all-important cowboy fantasy ("Stick to Your Guns"). Other bands like Van Halen, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and The Scorpions soon followed as I graduated from KISN 97 to KBER 101, but it was always Bon Jovi that had something of a bad boy image in our house. Both my parents and sisters objected to me listening to them, so I'm sure they were relieved when the phase eventually passed. As I started upgrading to CDs a year or two later, butt rock was giving way to grunge and alternative, and New Jersey was one of the albums that didn't make the transition. But I'm not ashamed to admit I have some Bon Jovi lurking on my iPod. I am endlessly amused that they caused so much trouble back in the day since their songs are ultimately harmless, and quite often unintentionally hilarious.

Hold your horses, cowboy. Pennsylvania doesn't count as "the west."

They Might Be Giants: Flood

I got my first taste of They Might Be Giants from the classic early '90s cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures. The episode "Tiny Toon Music Television" prominently featured the songs "Istanbul" and "Particle Man" as part of collection of animated music videos (see below). Surely others from my generation remember this. I later discovered these songs weren't created specifically for the show, but were written by a real band, albeit a very quirky one. If I may venture a guess, I'd say the mission of They Might Be Giants is to prove that geeks can rock out too. However, they don't need to rely on the lyrical linchpins of cool kid music (sex & drugs) to do it. In typical geek fashion, they would rather use their songs to explain to the common folk why Constantinople's name was changed to Istanbul ("people just liked it better that waaaaay"). They also have the intuitive minds to see that guitars and accordions are pretty much the best one-two punch since math and science. But let's not underestimate their mastery of catchy hooks and choruses. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" is one of those songs that gets impossibly stuck in your head, much like those ear worms in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.


Krissy said...

That picture of Bon Jovi disgusts me.

Cheeseboy said...

I'm with Krissy.

I think They Might Be Giants only make children's songs now.

Dave said...

Is it just me, or is Jon Bon Jovi relieving himself just off the edge of the photo?

Anonymous said...

although we grew up in the same era, we differ vastly when it comes to music, except U2.

Christie said...

Takes me back to Eisenhower Middle school dances.. oh the hair..