Saturday, May 9, 2009

Joss Whedon is my new They Might Be Giants

I attended high school from the years 1990 to 1994, or in terms of epochs, this was the heyday something called college rock. I don't think any bands are classified as college rock anymore. Anyone who would have been in the early 90s now just falls under the blanket category of "indie rock", even if they are on a major label. Maybe the term "alternative rock" still gets used, but since I gave up the quest to be the ultimate music snob about a decade ago, I stopped paying attention to labels. If I like something, I kinda don't give a rats ass how it's labeled by the industry. Unless it is considered emo, in which case my old snobbish ways would most likely rear their ugly heads and make me think twice about wether or not I want to be the girl in her 30s buying emo records. So far, this hasn't been an issue.

With my formidable years being the early 90s, I was lucky in that college rock was readily available where I grew up. Columbus had (and still has) some pretty decent radio stations that play such music, so we don't have to get Sirius in order to have a choice other than country and top 40. I also went to a very small high school which meant I was around the upperclassmen more than had I gone to a bigger school. As such, I learned about new music from the seniors, wether it was because they told me about bands or I learned about a band by noticing their name on t-shirts. And since I went to an alternative high school with my only exposure to the "main campus" being theater, we're talking about kids who were into the college rock thing. My freshman year I learned about bands I'd never heard of before, but still love to this day like The Pixies and The House of Love. Sophomore year, I spent a lot of Saturdays doing stagecraft for theater which meant hours of mix tapes made by the other stagecrafters. Theater stagecraft was where I first heard the Stone Roses, and They Might Be Giants.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'd first heard They Might Be Giants when my friend Sara came to visit and brought her cassette of Lincoln, which to date is still my favorite of the TMBG albums. I loved this at first spin, or spool I suppose since this was a tape, and dubbed it from her. I'd heard of them, but never knew anything about them until Sara played me Lincoln. So I had no idea that this was not their most recent album. After Lincoln came an album called Flood which was released in 1990. This was the album that contained the alternative/college/whateverthehell rock stapes such as "Particle Man", the classic "Istanbul, Not Constantinople", and the odd but lovable "Minimum Wage". To this day I can't say the words "Minimum Wage" without singing it to myself and hearing "HYAH!" after it.

Anyway, in alt rock circles, Flood was huge and my high school was certainly in said circle. It was played during most stagecraft Saturdays, parties, and people sang songs like "Birdhouse In Your Soul" while on the bus to and from the campuses of our school. And truth be told, I got a little sick of it. Now I'm not reverting back to my music snob ways and saying the classic snob declaration of "I like their old stuff better", because that's not true. I like Flood, I just don't like to be drowned in it.

Sorry about that.

But I do like Flood. It has a lot of really good songs on it, and so do the albums that came after Flood. I think I have a soft spot for Lincoln since it was my first real exposure to the band, and Sara and I have been singing those songs together for 18 years now. But even with my nostalgic feelings for Lincoln, a little of TMBG goes a long way for me. I can maybe listen to about 5 songs in a row, but after that I start to get sick of it. This has never been a band where I can put all of the albums in a CD changer or on my iPod, hit shuffle and listen all day. I won't change the station if a TMBG song comes on the radio, but if it's a 5 song rock block I might start looking for another station around song 4.

Yet I've met several people who can listen to TMBG all day long. They love this band, almost disciple level devotion. They're not like Cure fans or anything, but still, devoted beyond what I can offer. Some of these people did stagecraft with me, so a lot of my Saturdays were inundated with TMBG. Sadly, I think listening to this extremely this peppy music a 9AM after a long walk in the cold to the shop was a big contributor to my inability to listen to this band for more than 30 minutes at a time.

I have seen this band live, and live is different. I had no trouble at the concert with the exception of being pickpocketed, but I didn't have the tapes playing in the car before or after the show. And while I own albums by them and genuinely do like this band, I just can't provide the level of devotion others can to them. Sure, I had a crush on John Linnell and sure I've purchased the Lincoln album at least twice now due to changing formats, but I never was as obsessed with this band as others I've known. My first inclination when I'm in the need for dairy that is out of my reach is to say "Please pass the milk, please", so it's not like I can't ever stand this music or like to sing it myself.

A few years ago there was a Hellboy miniseries called "Conquerer Worm", and every time I said that my brain wanted to sing it as "They call me Conquerer Worm/Good morning how are you, I'm Conquerer Worm/I'm interested in things"...... you get the idea. I could go on with examples of how other such TMBG references are locked in my brain, but I digress.

Something I did become obsessed with in high school however was a movie called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This movie came out in 1992 and I was all over it because it was the first thing Paul Reubens had done since his unpleasantness. It also starred Rutger Hauer who I consider to be extremely fun to look at in spite of the fact that he often plays really really mean characters. And at the time, the casting of Luke Perry as a punk mechanic rather than the bad boy with a pompadour he was best known for from 90210 was relevantly ironic. Keep in mind this movie also featured future Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as well as the always fantastic Donald Sutherland. Of course, Kristy Swanson as Buffy was wonderful as well. "I am the chosen one, and I choose to go shoppping." I love this movie.

I was not however into the idea of this being a TV show when it was released in 1997. With the exception of M*A*S*H*, the idea of turning a movie into a TV show is rarely a good one. My initial feelings towards Buffy were no exception. I thought "Why ruin this good thing by making a TV show? This can't be good!" I had no desire to watch Sydney from Swans Crossing take over the role I thought had been expertly portrayed by the girl who tells Ben Stein that Ferris Bueller is sick. And, I would get excited when flipping through the on screen channel guide when I saw Buffy listed, only to be disappointed that it was just the show, not the movie.

I successfully avoided Buffy for a good 6 or 7 years. I had tons of friends who loved this show and tried and tried to get me to give it a chance, but to no avail. Not until my husband started buying the DVDs did I even consider it, and even then it took a year or two for me to want to see what this show was all about. So one night, we made some snicky snack food and settled in to school me on Buffy the TV show. Surprisingly, I found myself really enjoying it. I think we made it through 2 seasons in 3 days.

Everything everyone had told me about it was true. It's very different from the movie, so they can be separate entities and one won't taint the other. Sarah Michelle Gellar made a good Buffy, and her new Watcher Giles played by Anthony Steward Head is fantastic. The writing was clever, and I did love the friends Buffy had on TV much more than the friends she had in the movie. Hilary Swank's Oscar notwithstanding, those girls were bitches.

The clever writing I learned was thanks to the show's creator, Joss Whedon who had been a contributing screenwriter for Toy Story, which I loved. Around the time I finally began watching Buffy, the Angel spinoff had begun and so had the short lived but much loved Firefly series. And since I liked Toy Story and Buffy so much, I tried out Angel and Firefly, and really liked both of those as well. However, with the exception of Firefly (which was only barely half a season), I started to realize that I might be overdosing on Joss Whedon related programming.

I think it took about 2 weeks for Chris and I to watch up through half of season 5 of Buffy before I started to get sick of it. This was around that whole Glory storyline which I did not really get into, and it even started to feel like effort to watch episodes of Angel. I had to give it a rest, which I did for like 3 or 4 more years. If there was an episode on television when I couldn't sleep I'd watch it, but I wasn't making my way through the season sets of the DVDs anymore.

I'm going to segue here but I promise it leads somewhere.

In 2007 and 2008, I returned to my obsession with Doctor Who that I'd had in high school and college. Chris and I hadn't been keeping up with the new series, but what I'd seen I'd loved so we decided to get caught up before the 4th season started. I became so obsessed with this new show that it took me about 3 weeks to watch all 3 seasons of Doctor Who and both seasons of Torchwood. After I was done with these, I started getting the old episodes from the library and Netflix, trying to get mainly old Dalek episodes since those were my favorite. When the Daleks made their first appearance in the new series, I actually yelled "No way! That's what I'm talking about!" to the television. Alone in my house. Sad.

After I'd exhausted the Doctor Who that was readily available, I wanted something else to watch and remembered that I'd never finished all of the seasons of Buffy. I decided to just start season 5 over again since it had been so long, and so I grabbed the box set and threw the disc in, and lasted about 2 episodes.

I was still burned out on Buffy. I tried Angel as well, but still, I just couldn't get into it. To this day I've only seen about 5 episodes total from seasons 5-7 of Buffy. One of those was the last one, so I have my closure. And Angel, I've seen a bit past Doyle's death and the Muppet episode, but that's about it. I've also yet to sit down and watch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and I've not watched a single episode of Dollhouse even though my DVR faithfully records it every week. I also have a larger than I'm proud of stack of unread Buffy, Angel, and Spike comics. Worse yet, I've read only the first 2 issues of Joss Whedon's X-Men. And, I have pretty lukewarm feelings about that musical episode of Buffy.

Now to some, what I just admitted is completely and utterly unthinkable. The thought that there is Joss Whedon material out there that is unseen is cause for an epic quest not to be abandoned until all Whedon has been watched, read, or heard. And to them, I must seem like a heretic.

There are some Joss Whedon fans who have a devotion to his work that is admirable. It's fun to like something that much. Said fans will tell you their 5 favorite shows are Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and maybe Tru Calling and Bones because they star Buffy alumni. They own the issues and the trades of the Joss Whedon X-Men, and probably read their Buffy comics in the car after they pick them up. And while I enjoy the work of Whedon, and while I am friends with fans like this, I cannot share in this obsession. The same way I cannot share the obsession with my They Might Be Giants fan friends.

Again, don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy this stuff. Firefly and the movie Serenity that came after are both amazing and I love them. I still dust off my copy of Lincoln and rock out to "Cage And Aquarium" like it's 1991. But I'm not setting my schedule around the Dollhouse time slot, and if I have to hear "Santa's Beard" at Christmas again I think I may scream. And I know I'm not the norm here. I wouldn't be so dismissive as to call myself a casual fan, but I'm not a hardcore one either. Maybe like with my music, I don't like labeling my levels of fandom. I'm just simply a fan, even if you won't catch me at a midnight sale for a new TMBG release or in line weeks ahead of time to get the first ticket to the first showing of a new Firefly movie.

Although if we ever find out that Wash isn't really dead, I'll be the first to throw a party. Oh, and John? Wink.

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