TMBG Countdown: Honorable Mentions

April 30, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 517

A few songs that didn’t crack the top 26, but that I wanted to give special recognition for various reasons:

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

Call Connected Through the NSA (Podcast 4A, 2006)

TMBG’s response to revelations about Bush administration surveillance was a downloadable ringtone that reminded the user that every call was on a party line. It is, of course, totally irrelevant today.

Marty Beller Mask (Album Raises New and Troubling Questions, 2011)

One of the band’s most absurd songs, revealing drummer Marty Beller’s secret identity: Whitney Houston, who got sick of all the attention and really just wanted to play the skins in a rock band. The song was retired from live performance after less than a year when Whitney Houston was found dead. Continue Reading

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TMBG Countdown #1: Ana Ng

April 30, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 509

First release: Lincoln, 1988

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

I had this song at a lower position at first, but near the end of Sunday night’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg I realized it could only come in at #1.

Ana Ng is a basically perfect song, about two people who might be in love, except for the globe that has kept them from ever meeting.

Inspired by a 1950’s Pogo cartoon by Walt Kelly, the opening lines of the song (“Make a hole with a gun, perpendicular to the name of this town in a desktop globe / exit wound in a foreign nation, showing the home of the one this was written for”) is one of my favorite things the band has ever written.

The song is a live standard, performed (according to TMBW) more than 600 times in a little under 30 years, and while it may not be your choice for number one, it’s inarguably an example of the band at their very best.

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TMBG Countdown #2: Birdhouse in Your Soul

April 29, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 1409

First release: Flood, 1990

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

 

I mentioned I saw the band this past Sunday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg? They did two encores (as is standard, per John Flansburgh on Slate’s Working podcast) and as they led into “Dead” to start the second encore, I briefly entertained the thought that they might not play Birdhouse at this show.

Then, of course, “Dead” led straight into “Birdhouse” and my concerns were allayed. It would have been a very strange feeling, to experience a They Might Be Giants show with no “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” I believe they have played that song at every show I’ve ever attended. I learned in my early teens that the proper way to dance to Birdhouse is to jump up and down through the entire length of the song, and I’ve been able to chart my age by the shortening of time I spend jumping–first it was the whole song, then just the chorus, then just the first few measures of the song. Last night I sat in a chair in the balcony, and jumped not at all.

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TMBG Countdown #3: Don’t Let’s Start

April 28, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 639

First release: They Might Be Giants [AKA “The Pink Album”], 1986

(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

April 27, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 491

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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