TMBG Countdown #3: Don’t Let’s Start

Sorry it's not Number Three.

First release: They Might Be Giants [AKA “The Pink Album”], 1988

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

 

I have a confession: This song almost came in at #1, but I made a last-minute change on Sunday night while watching the band perform at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. To me, this is a defining work of art, the quintessential They Might Be Giants song, featuring the famous lyric that perhaps best encapsulates the band, played over an upbeat melody of course:

No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful

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TMBG Countdown #4: Disappointing Show

First release: TMBG Unlimited, 2001

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

This one requires a story.

From TMBG.com: “This is from a live show at Columbia University in NYC. We had a new stage tech (for one day) who neglected to plug anything in before we walked on stage-leading to perhaps the most humbling show start of our humbling careers. Things went downhill from there with power failures and electronic disasters. This spontaneously written song captures the magic of the disappointment!”

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Seriously reconsidering my comment policy.

Forgive me, this is one of those administrative “how the sausage is made” posts.

I’m giving serious thought to revising my comment policy. When I started blogging, I wanted to show a strong respect for free speech and open dialog, and so I committed not to delete anything, no matter how offensive or worthless. I’ve only ever done so when the comment contained a threat of violence.

But that was almost 20 years ago, and the Internet was a different place then. There was no Twitter and no Facebook–ie, no central place where users could engage in conversation. My sense was that I wanted my page to be a place where people could toss out conflicting ideas and make their voices heard–but in today’s online environment, that sounds ridiculous and grandiose. [Read more…]

TMBG Countdown #5: Science is Real

First release: Here Comes Science, 2009

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

An album of science songs was a natural choice for They Might Be Giants, especially after they partnered with Disney to release educational albums for kids. But of course this is the 21st century, and there was always the potential, especially in light of Disney’s commercial ambition, that “science” would be softened in the interest of marketability–which would be an especially egregious sellout for this band.

Instead, the album (which is a masterpiece as a whole) kicks off with this bold and unapologetic declaration of its thesis:

I like those stories about angels, unicorns, and elves
I like those stories as much as anybody else
But when I’m seeking knowledge, either simple or abstract
The facts are with science, the facts are with science

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TMBG Countdown #6: Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

First release: Flood, 1990

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Flood was the record that started it all for so many TMBG fans, and still holds up as one of their best records from start to finish; but I’d wager half or more of those fans first encountered this song not on Flood, but on Tiny Tunes Adventures, in the form of the video above.

As for me, this was another of those songs they played at weekend dances at my summer nerd camp. Yep. Dances. I distinctly remember dancing around playing an air violin.

Yep.

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TMBG Countdown #7: James K. Polk

First release: Factory Showroom, 1996

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Have I mentioned that I tend to favor the nerdiest songs?

A muscial summation of the presidential career of our 11th Chief Executive, “James K. Polk” manages to work in a singing saw solo and surprising historical accuracy. Like”Mammal,” this is a song I suspect more than one fan has used to pass an exam at some point.

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TMBG Countdown #8: Subliminal

First release: John Henry, 1994

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

As the first track on the first They Might Be Giants album to feature a full band, “Subliminal” is a powerful proclamation of what the band has become: It starts with a simple accordion riff, playing solo for two measures as a nod to where they came from before the rest of the band joins, kicking off the new era.

It’s a simple song, not one they play live with particular frequency, but I think it’s unappreciated, and it’s the opener of my favorite TMBG album.

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TMBG Countdown #9: Fingertips

First release: Apollo 18, 1992

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

I was thirteen years old in 1992, a nerdy kid, and They Might Be Giants was one of the most fascinating things I’d ever encountered. Atop the list of weird and interesting things they did was “Fingertips,” 21 short songs, varying in length from 5 seconds to 20 seconds, piled up at the end of an album with a liner note that explained they were designed to scatter throughout the album when the CD was played on shuffle.

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