They Might Be Giants

"Who's They May Be Giants?"

Official web site: http://www.tmbg.com/

Flood

(1990)
  1. Theme From Flood
  2. Birdhouse In Your Soul
  3. Lucky Ball and Chain
  4. Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  5. Dead
  6. Your Racist Friend
  7. Particle Man
  8. Twisting
  9. We Want a Rock
  10. Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
  11. Hearing Aid
  12. Minimum Wage
  13. Letterbox
  14. Whistling in the Dark
  15. Hot Cha
  16. Women & Men
  17. Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
  18. They Might Be Giants
  19. Road Movie to Berlin

John and John found popular success with this album, particularly with "Particle Man" and the cover of "Istanbul".

I don't much care for "Istanbul" and a few other songs, but the songs on this disc that I do like are among my very favourite TMBG songs.

"Your Racist Friend" bugs the crap out of my inner grammar pedant. "I know politics boreS you", dammit!

Apollo 18

(1992)
  1. Dig My Grave
  2. I Palindrome I
  3. She's Actual Size
  4. My Evil Twin
  5. Mammal
  6. The Statue Got Me High
  7. Spider
  8. The Guitar
  9. Dinner Bell
  10. Narrow Your Eyes
  11. Hall of Heads
  12. Which Describes How You're Feeling
  13. See the Constellation
  14. If I Wasn't Shy
  15. Turn Around
  16. Hypnotist of Ladies
  17. Everything's Catching on Fire
  18. Fingertips
  19. I Hear the Wind Blow
  20. Hey Now, Everybody
  21. Who's That Standing at My Window?
  22. I Found a New Friend
  23. Come On and Wreck My Car
  24. Aren't You the Guy Who Hit Me in the Eye?
  25. Please Pass the Milk, Please
  26. Leave Me Alone
  27. Who's Knocking on the Wall?
  28. All Alone
  29. What's That Blue Thing Doing Here?
  30. Something Grabbed Ahold of My Hand
  31. I Don't Understand You
  32. I Heard a Sound
  33. Mysterious Whisper
  34. The Day That Love Came To Play
  35. I'm Having a Heart Attack
  36. Fingertips
  37. I Walk Along Darkened Corridors
  38. Space Suit

Very good CD, my favourite until Mink Car came out.

Tracks 17-37 are listed on the CD simply as "Fingertips" (and as track 17—"Space Suit" is listed next as track 38). I saw Them live in 2004 and 2007, and the "Fingertips" suite was a trip both times.

How many other bands have mentioned the echidna (spiny anteater) in any of their songs?

The CD liner lists an incorrect phone number for Dial-a-Song.

Why Does the Sun Shine?

(1993)

[album cover]

  1. Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)
  2. Jessica
  3. Whirlpool
  4. Spy

Good single/EP.

The title track is a cover of a 1959 educational recording; "Jessica" is a cover of the Allman Brothers' instrumental; "Whirlpool" is a cover of the Meat Puppets' song.

This recording of "Spy" is much better than the John Henry version.

John Henry

(1994)
  1. Subliminal
  2. Snail Shell
  3. Sleeping in the Flowers
  4. Unrelated Thing
  5. AKA Driver
  6. I Should Be Allowed to Think
  7. Extra Savoir-Faire
  8. Why Must I Be Sad?
  9. Spy
  10. O, Do Not Forsake Me
  11. No One Knows My Plan
  12. Dirt Bike
  13. Destination Moon
  14. A Self Called Nowhere
  15. Meet James Ensor
  16. Thermostat
  17. Window
  18. Out of Jail
  19. Stomp Box
  20. The End of the Tour

My least-favourite TMBG album. It was Their first with a full band, but I don't think that's related. I don't think the near-complete lack of accordion after "Subliminal" is it, either, but it sure didn't help.

Hudson Shad, not John and/or John, sings "O, Do Not Forsake Me."

Factory Showroom

(1996)
  1. S-E-X-X-Y
  2. Till My Head Falls Off
  3. How Can I Sing Like a Girl?
  4. Exquisite Dead Guy
  5. Metal Detector
  6. New York City
  7. Your Own Worst Enemy
  8. XTC vs. Adam Ant
  9. Spiraling Shape
  10. James K. Polk
  11. Pet Name
  12. I Can Hear You
  13. The Bells Are Ringing

Decent album. I like most of the songs.

Hidden song before track 1, "Token Back to Brooklyn".

Then: The Earlier Years

(1997)

[album cover]

Disc 1:

  1. Everything Right Is Wrong Again
  2. Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head
  3. Number Three
  4. Don't Let's Start
  5. Hideaway Folk Family
  6. 32 Footsteps
  7. Toddler Hiway
  8. Rabid Child
  9. Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes
  10. (She Was a) Hotel Detective
  11. She's an Angel
  12. Youth Culture Killed My Dog
  13. Boat of Car
  14. Absolutely Bill's Mood
  15. Chess-Piece Face
  16. I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die
  17. Alienation's for the Rich
  18. The Day
  19. Rhythm Section Want Ad
  20. We're The Replacements
  21. When It Rains, It Snows
  22. The Famous Polka
  23. (untitled)
  24. For Science
  25. The Biggest One
  26. Kiss Me, Son of God (alternate version)
  27. Mr. Klaw
  28. Critic Intro
  29. Now That I Have Everything
  30. Mainstream U. S. A.
  31. Fake Out In Buenos Aires
  32. Greek #3
  33. Hope That I Get Old Before I Die (original)
  34. I'm Def
  35. Don't Let's Start (demo version)
  36. '85 Radio Special Thank You
Disc 2:
  1. Ana Ng
  2. Cowtown
  3. Lie Still, Little Bottle
  4. Purple Toupee
  5. Cage and Aquarium
  6. Where Your Eyes Don't Go
  7. Piece of Dirt
  8. Mr. Me
  9. Pencil Rain
  10. The World's Address
  11. I've Got a Match
  12. Santa's Beard
  13. You'll Miss Me
  14. They'll Need a Crane
  15. Shoehorn With Teeth
  16. Stand On Your Own Head
  17. Snowball in Hell
  18. Kiss Me, Son of God
  19. Hello Radio
  20. It's Not My Birthday
  21. I'll Sink Manhattan
  22. Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
  23. The World's Address (Joshua Fried Remix)
  24. Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal
  25. Lady Is a Tramp
  26. Birds Fly
  27. Kitten Intro
  28. Weep Day
  29. The Big, Big Whoredom
  30. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
  31. Become a Robot
  32. Which Describes How You're Feeling All the Time
  33. Swing Is a Word
  34. Doris Cunningham
  35. Counterfeit Fake
  36. Schoolchildren Singing "Particle Man"

Good set. Disc 1 is the band's self-titled debut followed by related EP tracks (20-27) and previously-unreleased material; disc 2 is Their second album, Lincoln, also with related EP tracks (19-26) and more bonus material. The EP tracks from both discs essentially replace Miscellaneous T.

For me, disc 1 has the better EP tracks, while disc 2 has the better album and unreleased material.

Disc 1's untitled track is part of an inadvertent message left by a caller (and conferenced-in friend) to the band's Dial-a-Song service (+1 718-387-6962) when it was still running on an answering machine. More of the recording was included in one of the band's 2006 podcasts.

Not that any of them are particularly bad, but I can still see why the previously-unreleased tracks were so, except for "Now That I Have Everything". Fun song.

The bonus "Which Describes" is pretty interesting, too. Different key and different instrumentation—guitar and drum machine instead of synthesizer.

Seriously, what could be better than "The Famous Polka"?

The "Particle Man" with the schoolkids is a hoot.

Severe Tire Damage

(1998)
  1. Doctor Worm
  2. Severe Tire Damage Theme
  3. They Got Lost
  4. Why Does the Sun Shine?
  5. Birdhouse in Your Soul
  6. She's an Angel
  7. XTC vs. Adam Ant
  8. Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  9. Ana Ng
  10. First Kiss
  11. Spider
  12. Particle Man
  13. She's Actual Size
  14. S-E-X-X-Y
  15. Meet James Ensor
  16. Till My Head Falls Off
  17. About Me

OK live/greatest-hits album. The first two tracks were new material.

"Doctor Worm", at least since 2004, is performed live with John's accordion replacing the horn section.

I love the jammin' accordion solo at the end of "Particle Man".

Seven unlisted tracks follow "About Me". They seem to have been ad-libbed at one concert and have a Planet of the Apes theme.

Mink Car

(2001)

[album cover]

  1. Bangs
  2. Cyclops Rock
  3. Man, It's So Loud in Here
  4. Mr. Xcitement
  5. Another First Kiss
  6. I've Got a Fang
  7. Hovering Sombrero
  8. Yeh Yeh
  9. Hopeless, Bleak Despair
  10. Drink!
  11. My Man
  12. Older
  13. Mink Car
  14. Wicked Little Critta
  15. Finished with Lies
  16. She Thinks She's Edith Head
  17. Working Undercover for The Man

Excellent album, or at least my favourite.

"Mr. Xcitement" features M. Doughty, formerly of Soul Coughing.

I heard "Wicked Little Critta" on Dial-a-Song a couple years before Mink Car came out and about died laughing when I recognised it on the CD.

I never seem to get tired of "Man, It's So Loud In Here".

"Another First Kiss" is a nice, slowed-down version of "First Kiss" from Severe Tire Damage.

John, John, and drummer Dan Hickey appeared on TechTV's Screen Savers in May of 2003 and performed "Wicked Little Critta", "Another First Kiss", and "Au Contraire" (a song from later albums). That perfomance of "Wicked Little Critta" is another song I never get tired of.

No!

(2002)

[album cover]

  1. Fibber Island
  2. Four of Two
  3. Robot Parade
  4. No!
  5. Where Do They Make Balloons?
  6. In the Middle, In the Middle, In the Middle
  7. Violin
  8. John Lee Supertaster
  9. The Edison Museum
  10. The House at the Top of the Tree
  11. Clap Your Hands
  12. I Am Not Your Broom
  13. Wake-Up Call
  14. I Am a Grocery Bag
  15. Lazyhead and Sleepybones
  16. Bed Bed Bed
  17. Sleepwalkers

An album for kids. Some of it is just too kid-oriented for this old guy, but I like all but about a half-dozen songs. In particular, I can't get enough of "Four of Two"—it's very accordion-y.

Bassist Danny Weinkauf sings "Balloons"; Robin Goldwasser, who also appeared on a Mono Puff album, sings "In the Middle"; Nicholas Hill sings "The Edison Museum".

Indestructible Object

(2003)
  1. Am I Awake?
  2. Memo to Human Resources
  3. Au Contraire
  4. Ant
  5. Caroline, No

OK little EP. "Am I Awake?" is the best, but "Ant" is all right, too.

The perfomance of "Au Contraire" on The Screen Savers is far superior to this one or the one on The Spine, not that I don't like the mixes on the CDs. But I never get tired of that live "Au Contraire".

The Spine

(2004)
  1. Experimental Film
  2. Spine
  3. Memo to Human Resources
  4. Wearing a Raincoat
  5. Prevenge
  6. Thunderbird
  7. Bastard Wants to Hit Me
  8. The World Before Later On
  9. Museum of Idiots
  10. It's Kickin' In
  11. Spines
  12. Au Contraire
  13. Damn Good Times
  14. Broke in Two
  15. Stalk of Wheat
  16. I Can't Hide from My Mind

Pretty good, but it's no Mink Car or Apollo 18.

Only 36 minutes long. That's some average song length.

"Memo to Human Resources" is sort of dull and probably didn't need to be on two albums.

This mix of "Au Contraire" has a guitar solo instead of Indestructible Object's flute solo.

John and John appeared on TechTV's Screen Savers in late 2003 and performed "Stalk of Wheat" for the first time ever. ("Check out how we don't know how to play it!" —John) The other song They played on that show was an odd version of "Particle Man", with John on guitar and John on vocals and Stylophone.

The Else

(2007)

[album cover]

  1. I'm Impressed
  2. Take Out the Trash
  3. Upside-Down Frown
  4. Climbing the Walls
  5. Careful What You Pack
  6. The Cap'm
  7. With the Dark
  8. The Shadow Government
  9. Bee of the Bird of the Moth
  10. Withered Hope
  11. Contrecoup
  12. Feign Amnesia
  13. The Mesopotamians

Took me a while to get into this one, and I still never get too excited about it, but there's not a bad song in the bunch. Tracks 1, 9, and 10 are favourites.

The "Mesopotamians" t-shirt I bought at a concert is my first red shirt in about 15 years.

Nanobots

(2013)

[album cover]

  1. You're on Fire
  2. Nanobots
  3. Black Ops
  4. Lost My Mind
  5. Circular Karate Chop
  6. Call You Mom
  7. Tesla
  8. Sleep
  9. Stone Cold Coup d'Etat
  10. Sometimes a Lonely Way
  11. Destroy the Past
  12. 9 Secret Steps
  13. Hive Mind
  14. Decision Makers
  15. Nouns
  16. There
  17. Insect Hospital
  18. Tick
  19. Replicant
  20. The Darlings of Lumberland
  21. Great
  22. Stuff is Way
  23. Icky
  24. Too Tall Girl
  25. Didn't Kill Me

Back to the CD rack

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Jeff Blank <jfb@mr-happy.com>