by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & ike everything else worth knowing about (sex; not hating the player, hating the game; most curse words; Chris Rock), I discovered PM Dawn while watching Boomerang. As a tween, I had a debilitating Eddie Murphy fixation that, in hindsight, makes sense as the confluence of two things I now strive for daily: vulgarity and urbanity. Cursing in my family was as rare as Blackness in north Spokane County, and I went rounds over which was more exotic. Since Eddie Murphy offered both those things once or twice a year on the big screen, he was the perfect idol for a poor, sheltered white kid who wished he could say "hell" whenever he wanted and live less than a half mile from the nearest (farm) house.
Now of course, sitting at the end of a decade Murphy spent telling fart jokes in fat suits and animated films, I see that my love for him wasn't all Beverly Hills Cop and The Golden Child. No, Murphy the soft drug led to reckless dalliances with other young comedians. Louis Anderson, for example. And I have yet to really recover from the frantic highs and debilitating lows of Damon Wayans fandom. Those early films, though not uniformly brilliant, were at least well soundtracked.
Boomerang was no exception, and PM Dawn's revelatory "I'd Die Without You" was its theme song. The twinkling keys, the finger snaps, the slightly gauzy vocals formed a spare, plaintive song laced with themes of love-loss so inaccessible to the understanding of a gawky redheaded kid, it might as well have been a Zen koan. The song was gorgeous, making me want to fall in love just so I could get my heart broken and stew in my grief. If compulsive radio-scanning for Silk's "Freak Me" was a manifestation of the filthy pubescent bacchanal my body was undergoing in '92, then snapping along with "I'd Die Without You" was the inverse: an introduction to love as the thing that comes right before the eyes-on-me melancholy of emotional martyrdom.
Of course, I'd heard and generally liked PM Dawn's two previous singles, I just didn't realize they were all sung by the same group. In my 11-year-old naivet & eacute;, I thought there might be another R & amp;B group in the world that brazenly mixed slow jams with hip hop, literary pretension and mysticism. I wish the older, wiser me could go back and explain that Dawn's aesthetic, sounding every bit like they want to rock your body whilst they align your chakras, was as unique as it is.
Because of this uniqueness, theirs was a short-lived phenomenon. Though the '90s would come to be dominated by brooding, lovelorn slackers (indeed my Eddie Murphy phase gave way to an Ethan Hawke phase), and emotional martyrdom was thus an easy sell, Dawn didn't stick with that tack for long. Always esoteric (the album that gave us "I'd Die Without You" is called The Bliss Album...? Vibrations Of Love And Anger And The Ponderance [sic] Of Life And Existance [sic]), later Dawn albums got more and more rambling and inchoate, going from high concept to just bizarre.
PM Dawn and I formally parted ways before that, though. By '93, most of my Sunday mornings were spent on acreage that fronted state land near the Blanchard hump, my friend Ben and I hiding in rusted out Fords so as to avoid going to Sunday School. When their third album, Jesus Wept, dropped, it felt like a personal recrimination.
Since the birth of Soul, more or less, R & amp;B has been about the bump and grind (or the absence of the bump and grind; longing for the return of the bump and grind, etc.). It's significant, then, that PM Dawn were able to get as big as they did being as strange as they were, underscoring what a truly peculiar, fascinating time the early '90s were. I wish I would have spent less of it hunkered down in those damned Fords.
PM Dawn at the Spread on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 8 pm. Price TBA. Call 456-4515.