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Repost: They Might Be Giants

Posted by purplemary54 on August 4, 2014

I’ve been in a TMBG mood lately, so I thought I’d repost this to share the joy.  And weirdness.  Mustn’t forget the weirdness.  Oh, and by way of updating the original post, I did indeed get myself a blue canary in the outlet by the light switch.




TMBG are odd.  There’s really no other way to put it.  The duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell have created some of the most kooky, funny, and surreal music ever.  They have a bit of a penchant for sound effects, but that’s not what makes them so odd.  (So does Wilco, but they’re not weird either.  Well, not too weird.)  Their songs have strange stream-of-consciousness, dada-like lyrics, but that’s not really what makes them weird, either; it certainly helps, but it’s not the strangest thing about these guys.  No, what makes them really strange is the fact that they make perfect sense.

Come to think of it, that might have a lot more to say about me than it does TMBG.

In all seriousness, the lyrics are. . . different (but very intelligent), and the sound effects have a tendency to throw songs off-balance (but in a good way).  This is another case of using humor to expose some universal truths.  Thematically, they cover everything from common heartbreak to adolescent angst to bigotry and political corruption.  Their songs tend to be very short, but not much is needed to get the amusing point across.

I first discovered TMBG while watching MTV.  The video for “Don’t Let’s Start” came on, and I was hooked.  They were so unlike anything else at the time that me and my suburban, just post-adolescent angst never really stood a chance.

It was wonderful.  When I got a hold of their first album, it was more of the same.  So were the second and third albums (Lincoln and Flood, respectively).  When they first started out, they had a service called Dial-a-Song, which featured a New York number you could call and reach an answering machine with a new song on it every day.  I never had the wherewithal to risk my parents’ questioning me about making long-distance calls, or I would’ve been dialing up as often as possible.  One of my favorites by them is “Shoehorn with Teeth.”  The title alone should tell you what kind of crazy you’re dealing with.  It’s too short to have any sort of narrative, but the chorus sets the mood: “He wants a shoehorn, the kind with teeth.  People should get beat up for stating their beliefs.  He wants a shoehorn, the kind with teeth, cause he knows there’s no such thing.”  And for fans of Flood, ThinkGeek is selling a “Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch” for only $12.99 (plus shipping & handling).

I’m afraid that TMBG kind of dropped off my radar after Flood.  I know they’ve made a lot more music; in the last few years they’ve made what is by all accounts charming and witty children’s music.  I need to rediscover them, but they set the bar so high with their first three albums, I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.

Then again, how disappointing could it be to smile?



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