Brook Pridemore Glad To Be Alive
I can vividly remember the night I met Brook Pridemore. It was many years ago in a shitty Brooklyn dive bar that’s now a shitty nightclub. Their stage banter was awkward and authentic. Brook shared their experiences regarding death, depression, and self-harm, with a seemingly singular focus simply to make sure no one in the room felt odd or alone. They played a song called “Guitar Bomb,” of which I’d later go on to pay lyrical homage in my band. Brook closed the set as they always do with “Thank you my name is Brook Pridemore from Brooklyn, NY”
But Pridemore, the Detroit native musician, is so much more. Internationally known, recognized across the US, and a pillar of NYC’s anti-folk movement, over the years I’d go on to hang out with Brook in countless basements and DIY spaces, stand on street corners and rooftops. We’ve played the same stages in numerous local venues, and we’ve shared meals and couches on tour. I’ve come to feel connected to them on a number of levels. Some obvious and some less so. Some we talk about and some we don’t need to.
But what’s far more interesting than any of my individual memories of Pridemore, is how their music impacts my collective experiences as a complex human being traversing this planet. Brook Pridemore the musician seems to be an endless mystery, a series of fascinating anecdotes sieved through different phases and prisms of perspective. Yet the human never wanders too far from completely relatable beyond expectation.
I’ve seen them acoustic and wired, solo and with a full band, but the one constant you will always get is a raw no-punches honesty quite unlike anything else you’ll come across in the Brooklyn music scene, and their new release, Glad to Be Alive, is no different.
Almost Dylan-esque in its storytelling but with a Mountain Goats delivery, Pridemore’s use of imagery and rhyme (and sometimes lack thereof) is truly and uniquely their own. There’s a calm sadness that permeates throughout the record with lyrics such as “Sometimes I wanna leave the living, and I take a ride out to the beach. Wet sand could not be more forgiving. My problem not more out of reach,” from “Leave the Living”
There’s a wisdom to their words and and tenderness in their candor. Fans of Jets to Brazil’s Perfecting Loneliness era will appreciate the simple and delicate composition of hyper-specific detailed experiences that the same time somehow feel universal to the human condition. It’s romantic and beautiful and painful: “They’re lying if they tell you it’s a short life you’re living. It’s the longest thing that you’ll do… But the water wouldn’t take you away. It’s like you were determined to stay,” from “Charlie Watts”
Pridemore worked extremely closely with Ben Hozie (of BODEGA) on this project to get those rich textures with extremely stripped down instrumentation. Most of the record at its core is Brook’s signature acoustic guitar hugging the vocal. But the 15 track LP is dotted with blankets of fuzz, varied bass and percussion, and a lot of different elements on keys that completely define the tone of many of the songs.
They explained to Bands do BK that “Glad to be Alive was written in the (literal) dark and Ben Hozie and I brought it into the (figurative) light. The songs poured out of me at 3am (or later), like letting blood. Ben took the skeletal demos and transformed them into big pop songs. What was depressing/depressed became anthemic. If sad songs are nature’s onions, pop songs are nature’s caffeine pill. Most important to me, though, was the DIY aspect of Glad to be Alive. This is almost entirely Ben and I, working together in his bedroom on a simple interface. Making this record proved to me I can make a record at home, with just a couple of mics and a lot of ideas. The future of music is in our hands, and the future is now!”
It’s really hard to review this record by breaking it into its individual songs, it’s best listened to a collective whole. Not only are there A LOT of songs, but the LP unfolds like an autobiographical anthology of tales that tell a larger story of the artist. But even from the start, the title track sets the tone, laying out the verses to criss cross thin timelines between being dead and being alive. Sometimes the darkness is palpable, whether it’s in the haunting noises and jarring strings of “No Music” or through the prose itself of “The Man Who Tried to Kill Me.” Other times there’s a somber optimism and light of acceptance just short of regret: “I remember crashing east and west across your yard. The thing about Midwestern kids is that we make the most of it, and no one else goes even half as hard” from “Learned to Play the Drums”
To say Brook Pridemore is an interesting character is an understatement and a disservice. Over the years I have definitely found myself with more questions than I have answers. And they are the kind of person who would just tell you if you only asked. But even then, it’d still probably open up more questions for me. The longer I know them and the more I learn and more the I listen to their story through conversation and their music, the more I want to connect, and and the more I feel that connection straight into the center of my soul.
Ever since that first night in that dark bar back in 2015, when I locked eyes with that odd fellow and we inadvertently became little pieces of each other’s strange stories, I can honestly say I am richer for having known them. Existence is strange that way. Sometimes we can play a small role in something that has a much more far-reaching impact in ways we don’t even consciously consider. At least one version of Brook Pridemore is glad to be alive, and I can honestly say I’m glad they are too.
Glad To Be Alive was self released and is available on Bandcamp and all major streaming platforms.