One of the nice things about being on a They Might Be Giants kick is finding myself back in their wonderfully insane world. It’s hard not to enjoy this band’s oddities and quirks because they’re delivered so joyfully. TMBG songs might be as surreal and experimental as, say, Pere Ubu, but with the addition of a childlike glee that makes all the weirdness less weird.
Take this classic from their first album. “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head” is a disjointed collection of one-liners and accordion music that John Flansburgh and John Linnell somehow make seem like the best party ever. Well, it would be a great party if you’re a nerd like me.
After a few listens, you realize this isn’t a song about some sinister cult that forces people into puppetry as a form of psychological torture; it’s just another coming of age song (a whole sub-genre of Country music). The absurdity of life, of responsibility, of how out of place you feel as you move from teenager to adult, is summed up with the insolent “Memo to myself: Do the dumb things I gotta do. Touch the puppet head.” Who hasn’t felt strangled by the pointlessness of all the things we have to do when we adult? (I love how usage has turned a boring nondescript noun like “adult” into a really descriptive, if vague, verb.) Why does the singer have to touch the puppet head? Who knows, and who really cares? The puppet head is just another version of Hitchcock’s Macguffin. It’s the thing that puts the action of the story into motion, but is never really clearly defined and might not ever even be seen.
Kind of like growing up.