Why do people love: They Might Be Giants

Over their 30+ year career John Flansburgh and John Linnell have turned writing and performing quirky music with a heart into a career.  During this time, their biggest hits have been Don’t Lets Start, Istanbul (Not Constantinople), and Particle Man.

That’s not to say they haven’t written some indelible songs that didn’t garner radio attention.  Number Three, We Want A Rock and Kiss Me Son of God deserve to be classics in their own right.  But why do people love them?

From their 1999 album Long Tall Weekend, comes a song called On Earth My Nina.  It’s clearly sung backwards, but somehow it still works.  At any rate, somehow they are all still words being said.

Which begs the questions, what happens if you reverse the track?

(sigh: that was the only version I could find on youtube)

Ok, less than dramatic conclusion.  For those who even cared to do that, coupled with the group of people familiar with the TMBG catalog of songs, you arrive at this realization.

From their album The Spine, they released an album version of a song they’d been performing live for several years, Thunderbird.

Yes, they reversed Thunderbird, wrote down what they heard, and turned it into a song.  How freaking cool is that?!


So, TMBG had this contest…

where they asked fans to come up with a video for the song Am I Awake? from their album Indestructable Object.  The whole thing is in preparation for a rarities album called Idlewild on May 27.  Because I subscribe to the They Might Be Giants mp3 and news service (doesn’t everybody?), I was delivered the three winners of the video contest this morning.

My favorite is the sleep study one.

According to Judge John Hodgman,

WINNER Paul and Mike Swiatek, for the video I call “Sleep Study Voyeur:” Beautifully shot, hilarious, and unexpected. As a creator of list based humor, I must admire anyone who can keep the same joke so consistently engaging and surprising for three minutes.

WINNER Alex Italics, for the video I call “Don’t Say ‘Grassy Knoll,’ say ‘Grassy YES.'” The amount of talent that has been poured into this–from all the actors to all the costumes to the set design and the video design, not to mention the elderly newsman tear deployment–makes it as hypnotic as the Zapruder film.
WINNER Jack Fields, for the video I call “Murderous Puppet Typewriters.” Startling, original, repulsive in the most beautiful way, it engages with the lyrics without being an on-the-nose dream sequence. And the physics of puppet dismemberment are as accurate as I recall from puppet medical school.

How did I not think of this song for Earth day??

I”m pretty sure the meaning of this song’s chorus “take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me/and be there when i feed the tree” translates to “respect me during and after my life”.

Now, unrelated to the song, I’d like to bust a widely propagated myth about an popular quote. This quote is placed on sevaarl banners, bumper stickers, tshirts and the like and attributed to a native american idiom. In reality, it was first attributed to an individual in 1972 in a book about the reaping of the earth for profit.

“Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”
-Alanis Obomsawin, from the 1972 book ‘Who is the Chairman of This Meeting?’

Yes, i’m a nerd about more than music and science fiction…

Some great suggestions for Earth Day tracks

Public Image Ltd. – Don’t ask Me


Oi Polloi – The Earth is Our Mother


Testament – Dark Roots of the Earth



They’re giving away CFL bulbs and other earth/green things at work tomorrow, so I figured I’d extend my posts a little bit longer.

Thanks to those who gave suggestions.  I wasn’t aware of any of the above songs before I was recommended them.

Happy Earth Day, part 2

So I asked several people today for help in finding a song that I could post for Earth Day. It had to be about the earth or the environment and I gave bonus points for originality and thinking out of the box.
I got several requests, from This Land is Your Land to the Star Wars theme, to 99 Problems, but this one was clearly an inspired choice.

Sample lyrics about why this song is appropriate to celebrate Earth Day:
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea

If I were the king of the world/Tell you what I’d do/I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the wars/And make sweet love to you

Vinyl Review: The Wizard of Oz – Original Sound Track

This was my Goodwill find yesterday.  I really had to examine the cover to make sure this was the actual soundtrack and not a kid’s version of the story on an LP.  The version I found was apparently released in the 1960s and features a lot of dialog from the movie with music being played in the background, but many of the most memorable songs are there.  The only glaring omission I’ve been able to think of is We Represent the Lollipop Guild was not on the album.  You do however get Over the Rainbow, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead, and If I Only Had a Brain.

i have to admit that I actually do like both the soundtrack and the movie itself.  It’s incredibly inventive for being released in 1939.  The movie did a great job bringing the original children’s novel to life on the screen.

The soundtrack I found did have a skip, but hey, it was 99 cents at Goodwill, and seems to be regularly listed as “buy it now” on ebay in the $15 – 22 range, so a pretty good deal.


Ironically, the 75th anniversary soundtrack of the album on emerald green vinyl was a Record Store Day release yesterday…


Vinyl review: Dresden Dolls – Dresden Dolls

This record was my highest ranked vinyl I was able to find yesterday at Record Store Day. It’s one of my favorite records, and I was excited to see that it was still available when I went out yesterday.
Briefly: The Dresden Dolls are a cabaret/punk band led by Amanda Palmer, who used to be a street performer, and so has a natural flare for entertaining on a stage.

So far, I’ve only listened to the first 1/4th of the album, but those are a trio of great songs. Good Day, Girl Anachronism and Half Jack all sound great on vinyl. I look forward to hearing the rest of the album, including Coin Operated Boy and The Perfect Fit.

Vinyl Review: Nirvana – Pennyroyal Tea b/w I Hate Myself and I Want to Die

I was tepid about picking this up, but my girlfriend suggested it, so I was glad when I found a copy. I actually think it was the last copy at the store I went to.
This single was originally scheduled to be released 20 years ago today, but it was scrapped in the days before the release for two reasons. One: the singer had been found dead of suicide about 10 days before, and 2, the record label didn’t want to release a song in the wake of that titled “I Hate Myself and I Want to Die”. Good on the label for that call.

Anyway, I was excited to hear the B side on vinyl with high quality headphones. It sounds amazing, what with double tracked vocals and the great guitar tracks.

Unfortunately, the first two times I played the track, it stopped before the end. The first time, I wasn’t watching the record, so I put it on again from the beginning. After that, I placed the needle near the end of the track, and it played through just fine.

Trying to route out the problem, I started it again near the beginning and it played just fine. It’s weird, but I’m glad it now actually plays all the way through.