Musical criticism and commentary

A factory showroom of They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants - Photo Author: Shervin LainezI love They Might Be Giants. They have, over the years, earned a spot as one of my top three favorite bands (tied with U2 and The New Porngraphers). While they seem like a “funny” band at first, there is so much more to their music than humor. They Might Be Giants really dives deep into the human experience. Sometimes their lyrics are dark, but with a humorous sounding tone. Sometimes their songs are a three minute history lesson. Still – other times we find the songs of TMBG are pretty much a musical experiment – let’s make an interconnected loop of the lyrics. Regardless of the style – They Might be Giants is more than just a novelty band. TMBG captures the human experience in a way no other band can. Perhaps that’s why I love TMBG – their music has provided a constant backdrop to my own experiences. With that, I can think of no better way to pay tribute to TMBG then to recount my own experiences with their music.

My first introduction to They Might Be Giants was the same as many people my age – Tiny Toons Adventure In the episode “Tiny Toon Music Television.” From the moment (Block)Buster Bunny announced the first music video, “Istanbul, Not Constantinople,”  we were like…what? Even when Buster announced another TMBG song, he asked “who are these guys?” This was pretty much everyone’s thoughts – who the heck are They Might Be Giants? They certainly were not Madonna or Sinead O’Connor, much to the dismay of Babs Bunny. But they were special. We could tell! They Might Be Giants is a band worth checking out.

A few years later, in a late night record shop, I found a copy of Apollo 18. The cover was – odd. A giant Octopus attacking a Whale – seemingly in space – as a 1970s era space capsule looks onwards. I looked at the track listing on the back of the CD, and saw song titles like “Dig My Grave,” “The Statue Got Me High,” and “Hall of Heads.” I was scared to look any further. I put the CD back, and decided to look for something a bit safer that evening. Little would I know, in 20 years or so I would buy a shirt with this very album cover on it – and I would wear this shirt proudly.

In the early 2000s, my good friend Dave lent me several data CDs with hundreds of MP3s. I ripped a copy and over the next few months I dove into these songs. I found several TMBG MP3s. “She Thinks She’s Edith Head,” “Cyclops Rock,” and “Man, It’s So Loud In Here” really stuck out – but I loved all of the songs I heard. I knew I needed more TMBG in my life, and I knew from that moment forward, I would be a lifelong fan.

A few months later, my first TMBG concert – of many. Again – my good friend Dave got me in for free, he actually interviewed the band beforehand. Honestly – I don’t remember much about the show. I remember our friend Eliza getting scared during “Robot Parade.” I remember being really excited when they played Istanbul. A third memory – John Linnell singling: “everybody conga….I’m not fucking kidding.” Mostly what I remember though – the show was a lot of fun. Perhaps the most high energy show I had been to at that point in my life.

In the year 2004, I went to a John Kerry for president rally. I saw Jon Bon Jovi play a song or two, and Leonardo DiCaprio spoke for a few minutes. Of course, John Kerry was also there. Later that day – that 90+ degree day – I went to a friend’s wedding. The church had no air conditioning, and the ceremony was Messianic Jewish and, no offense to my friend, long and boring. They Might Be Giants was playing that night – in the same park the John Kerry rally had been. Some friends of mine were there, and I ran as fast as I could from the wedding to the concert. Again, the wedding was boring and They Might Be Giants is highly energetic. I went from 0 to 10 as soon as I got to the show. I let up much pent up energy from sitting in a hot room, during a long and boring ceremony. One of my friends at the show said she never saw me get so hyper. Also – another concert goer said I kind of looked like John Flansburgh. That made me smile.

In the wee hours of January 1, 2006, my New Years party was over. I grabbed a bus, but did not want to go home, so I  stopped in downtown Portland. For whatever reason, I sang – nay – yelled a They Might Be Giants song as I walked down the street. I was not drunk – just hyper. This timeframe was not the happiest of my life by any means, but I guess the New Year was giving me hope for a brighter future.

A year or two later, I decided to make a “Literature Rocks” playlist. Basically – a playlist featuring songs about or inspired by works of literature. I asked a LiveJournal group for suggestions, and they directed me to the song “I Should be Allowed To Think.” Instantly this became my favorite TMBG Song. TMBG took Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and updated it – even added onto it. I still have yet to hear the song played live. One time I asked via twitter if they would consider playing it. Flansburgh answered back, saying they didn’t remember how to play it. Next time you come to Portland Flansburgh! Next time.

So many concerts – so many albums – they all seem to run together. I’ve probably seen They Might Be Giants ten times now. I know most of their songs, though there’s a few I still discover from time to time. The band has been around for over 30 years. The last time I saw them, I brought my girlfriend. At the show’s end – I rushed us from our seats down to the stage because I knew they would be passing out stickers. Flansburgh threw one of the disc shape stickers our way, and it pelted my girlfriend in the head.  Maybe this was his revenge on me for asking them to play “I should be Allowed To Think a Few Years back.” Maybe they hate it when fans request songs they haven’t played in years. Maybe next time I should just ask Linnell instead. What’s he going to do – throw his accordion? Actually – I better not tempt him.

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