“For 24 years, the best moments of our lives have been shared”, said John, reflecting on the seemingly endless bond between him, Chris, Chris’ brother Greg, and Tom, on the 2007 “Ballad of Chris & Kristen”. Their greatest hits had enriched the lives of all that came in contact with them, and their time together yielded creations of full heart and vivid humor. Their early, almost childlike work is mostly forgotten now, lost to time, but some pieces still endure. Their revolutionary debut as a trio, a taunting version of “Happy Birthday”, on which Chris is heard crying in the background, is a bizarre oddity, while its B-side, “Cub Scout Races” is almost as weird. Adding Tom to the fold, “Wally Winnebago”, “Peter Talbot’s Elementary School Mustache”, “Tribute to Whitesnake”, and “Getting Tom To Use Swear Words” have the same carefree simplicity of early Ramones. They started to show positive development with their examinations of video games and movies; “Pecker (Fruit Basket)”, “Truffle Shuffle”, “Ninja Gaiden” and “Staying Up Late at Tom’s House” had an almost reckless bent, prone to detours of math-like signature changes.
The early 90’s were when the group really started to pick up momentum; while Greg came and went frequently to devote time to the early installments of his “Soccer & Screw Her” series, they added Ross, who brought an intellectualism to their work, but who also served to amplify the surreal hysterics of the new material. Their first big successes, Tangy Zip of Penicillin, Parts 1 & 2, featured a slew of their most enduring hits. Part 1 housed the massive title track, Tom’s “Boris” and “The Time Is…”, “The Disappearance of Ricardo”, “Alice in Chains (Got Booed Off the Stage)”, and “Bad Ideas (Millennium Vs. Hitman)”, all among their best work; Part 2 was even better, featuring the monster singles “Pea Green” and “Not Really Bacon Bits” (featuring Tony Limoli), as well as Ross’ “Johnny, Where’s My Wax?” and John’s triple-shot of “Guru of Useless Knowledge”, “Box of Soda” and “Broken Ankle”. The highlights, though, were surely “Eh Bwah” (featuring the unhinged Chris Higgins), and their covers: Chris and John turning White Lion’s “When The Children Cry” into a protest song, and Ross’ classic shout-along take on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”, which was infamously recorded in the middle of traffic.
In the mid 90’s, the boys started to branch out in separate ways. Chris explored the mainstream with work like “The Kay-Bee Theme” and “Psycho (Lara’s Theme)”, John moved in a more arty direction and toyed with DJ work, and Greg had two big hits with “Prom Troubles” and “Too Many Concussions”; Tom took time off for medical reasons and Ross committed himself to academia. When Chris, Greg, & John reconvened in 1997, they began the brilliant “Basement Era”, which utilized a revolving cast of collaborators (including a returning Tom, as well as Nick, Rick, Dr. Smag, and others) to continue to grow while examining base human instinct; the stinging “Flying Brown Cup”, the wild “Vulture and Vagina”, and the hilarious “Battle of The Doorknob (Persiflage)” were all guttural stomps through the male psyche, almost neanderthal in approach. The agitated “Sandy (This Is Ridiculous)” is one of Chris’ finest compositions.
This project continued on until 2005, but was constantly juxtaposed against the beauty of the core trio’s side work with their significant others. Chris’ collections with Kristin shone the brightest, their Virginia and Return To New York were classics of male-female interplay. Chris found in Kristin the perfect collaborator, and was clearly producing his best work; the group recognized this, offering generous support, producing sweeping epics like the immortal “Petey”, “Spy Museum”, and “Halloween Party/Pocahontas Vs. Retarded Cartman” as well as adventurous novelties like Greg’s “Scottish Cow Cock”, Rick’s “Superhero Pajamas”, and John’s “Muddy Jeans”. Greg and John, with the others, gave Chris their blessing to work with Kristin full time, disbanding the Basement Players, but still finding time to appear as guests on each others’ projects (Greg & Chris’ “Magic Man” and “Murse” are particularly fun, as is Nick & John’s “1 + 3”). In October 2007, Chris and Kristin were officially married, beginning a new age for creative growth and love. John commemorated the occasion on his “Ballad of Chris & Kristin”, paying tribute to his friends’ past and future, but conceding, “I don’t even have to say how much I love you both, because you know already.”