They Might Be Giants - C/D, S/D, OPO etc

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I can't make up my mind.

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:09 (fifteen years ago) link

Awful band. Really, I can't understand the appeal. Sort of catchy (but not really) songs, inane lyrics. (The Statue Got Me High???) I bet their kids albums are great though.

Mr. Que (Mr.Que), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:14 (fifteen years ago) link

Great band. Use the search function.

gabbneb (gabbneb), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

search function only turns up a random assortment of threads ("could they write a musical?" "change things about the band" etc.)

I'm more interested in an overview of their ouevre/"schtick", their songwriting, and the issue of their "dorkiness" (particularly how that has limited their appeal and why that is). Also how, at least on their first three albums, they fit into that 80s tendency of nerdy white guys appropriating and using explicitly non-nerdy white guy idioms - folk, reggae, world music, dance music (see also David Byrne, Paul Simon - I wanna throw Pere Ubu's 80s records in here too for some reason).

I think they've written a lot of great songs, but have a tendency to retreat behind a wall of schtick that makes any kind of emotional connection with their music problematic. But some stuff, if you peel away the levels of forced irony and wordiness, is really quite bleak and despairing, genuinely moving even. (see "They'll Need a Crane", for ex.)

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:27 (fifteen years ago) link

they seem doomed to be a "cult" band - like Insane Clown Posse or Phish or something - where any kind of serious critical evaluation will never happen because they've built this protective wall of schtick+diehard fans around them that prevents it.

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:30 (fifteen years ago) link

Though they're not exactly PIONEERS of the "catchy melody/dark content" thing, they sure are accomplished practitioners. So many songs sneakily about death, divorce, etc.

x-post um have you seen the movie about them? 100% "serious critical evaluation".

the doaple gonger (nickalicious), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns)

the doaple gonger (nickalicious), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:34 (fifteen years ago) link

sources reported the movie was "boring" so I didn't bother. Who's providing the critical evaluation in the movie...? They make a lot of jokes/references to other bands in their early material, but they don't strike me as even being on the radar of most of their contemporaries/peers.

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:37 (fifteen years ago) link

(altho Linnell blows crazy sax on an early JSBX tune - that always struck me as an odd pairing of NY art rockers)

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:39 (fifteen years ago) link

They are the Dilbert of music.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:43 (fifteen years ago) link

Who's providing the critical evaluation in the movie...?

Look at cast list in link provided! Jon Stewart! Dave Eggers! Paul Simon! Sarah Vowell! Etc!

the doaple gonger (nickalicious), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:44 (fifteen years ago) link

Since you give the "Destroy" option above, I will choose Destroy.

Mr. Que (Mr.Que), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:47 (fifteen years ago) link


zeus (zeus), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 19:58 (fifteen years ago) link

I don't think even Jon Stewart would consider his own opinion a "critical reevaluation"... I wonder what someone like Christgau has to say (he probably hates them)

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:31 (fifteen years ago) link

I stand corrected (at least in regards to the first three):

They Might Be Giants [Bar/None, 1986]
Two catchy weirdos, eighteen songs, and the hits just keep on coming in an exuberantly annoying show of creative superabundance. Their secret is that as unmediated pop postmodernists they can be themselves stealing from anywhere, modulating without strain or personal commitment from hick to nut to nerd. Like the cross-eyed bear in the regretful but not altogether kind "Hide Away Folk Family," their "shoes are laced with irony," but that doesn't doom them to art-school cleverness or never meaning what they say. Their great subject is the information overload that lends these songs their form. They live in a world where "Everything Right Is Wrong Again" and "Youth Culture Killed My Dog." A

Lincoln [Restless/Bar/None, 1988]
XTC as computer nerds rather than studio wimps--change for chord change and beat for irrelevant beat, they're actively annoying even if intelligence is all you ask of your art-pop. Except maybe on the antiboomer "Purple Toupee," side one's hooks begin and end with "Ana Ng," a beyond-perfect tour de force about a Vietnamese woman they never got to meet; until "Kiss Me, Son of God," which closes the album and could be anti-Castro if they let it, side two's are cleverness for cleverness's sake. And damned clever they are. B+

Flood [Elektra, 1990]
tunes, aarghh, tunes--please not more tunes ("Dead," "Your Racist Friend") **

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:32 (fifteen years ago) link

well sorta - he calls them annoying twice...

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:34 (fifteen years ago) link

What's all this "serious critical evaluation" nonsense. They are about one tenth as dorky as ILM.


everything (everything), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:40 (fifteen years ago) link

C'est Classique.

Mallory L . O'Donnell (That Bitch Camille), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:44 (fifteen years ago) link


Apollo 18


Tough call. I'll go with "Ana Ng" for now.

Mallory L . O'Donnell (That Bitch Camille), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:48 (fifteen years ago) link

Although "I've Got A Match" is tempting, given my emotional state...

"I'm gonna die / if you touch me one more time
Well I guess that I'm / gonna die no matter what"

Mallory L . O'Donnell (That Bitch Camille), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:49 (fifteen years ago) link

that could almost be a Will Oldham line

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:51 (fifteen years ago) link

Search also: John Henry and about two-thirds of Factory Showroom.

everything (everything), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:55 (fifteen years ago) link

They are better at writing miserable songs about dying, being dead or death in general that anyone else I can think of right now.

everything (everything), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 21:56 (fifteen years ago) link


gabbneb (gabbneb), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 22:05 (fifteen years ago) link

ah, I didn't search for "TMBG" - thx

Shakey Mo Collier (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 22:06 (fifteen years ago) link

TMBG were my favourite band, in 1990, when I was 15 or 16. They were my first ever gig, in 92. But I thought I'd grown out of them by the end of 94, and stopped paying attention. Then I caught up with them again in about 2001, and realised they'd never really lost it, but that if anything, they'd got a bit less wacky, which meant there were more sweet clever pop songs on the later albums (unfortunately this has changed again, more recently).

So these days, as a grown-up non-wacky non-fanboy, my picks would be:

Spiralling Shape. A very OTM song about novelty fixation and the race to hip, and the fact those things don't bring any happiness. "Nobody knows what it's really like, but everyone says it's great".

I Can Hear You. Recorded on an old wax cylider, it's just a small handful of two-line vignettes about different forms of communications technology, and the lengths people will go to to find new ways of just talking to each other. It can move me to tears. First time I heard it, I immediately ripped it to mp3 and emailled it to somebody, because that just made sense.

Four of Two. From the first kids' album, a little nonsense song which is in fact a sneaky allegory about how easy it is to think you'll one day meet your ideal partner, but then wake up one morning to realise that you're old and your life's flown by and it's too late...and yet to still think you're bound to meet them, soon.

She's An Angel. A very sweet and simple first love song, which is amazed and shocked by the way it feels, and is too shy to say "I really like you", so hides behind random tangents and adolescent surrealism...but doesn't manage to hide its real message very well, in the end.

Till My Head Falls Off. Drug addled suicide note. Which rocks.

Dr. Worm. Possibly their most archetypically TMBG sounding chorus ever, and the words are about a nice old man who's always wanted to be a famous jazz drummer and thinks he still can be, one day, if he just practices a bit more. Beautiful.

I could probably go on for a while, but I won't.

JimD (JimD), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 23:20 (fifteen years ago) link

"Birdhouse in Your Soul" is one of the greatest songs ever written.

Nowadays, their childrens albums are about fifty billion times better than their "real" ones.

Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 23:23 (fifteen years ago) link

I think I scared a girl off with the sun song.


Major Alfonso (Major Alfonso), Tuesday, 1 August 2006 23:26 (fifteen years ago) link

TMBG's first 5 or so records ruled!!!! The rest is not so great. "John Henry" (the first time they recorded w/an actual band) is brilliant and remains my favorite.

"road movie to berlin," from "flood," was the first song my wife ever saw me sing in public...we've been married over 13 years now. I totally credit John and John of TMBG. Thanks, nerds!

-chadly con Queso

chadbeck (squirrel boy), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 00:04 (fifteen years ago) link

My friend's mom and stepdad had "Birhouse in your Soul" as their wedding song. That's pretty adorable, especially since they're old NPR nature-loving types.

I wish no particular harm on TMBG. Flood is a nice album.

Racist Friend (Roger Fidelity), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 01:00 (fifteen years ago) link

they had a good run in the '80s and early '90s, and some of the children's stuff and one-offs were nice too, but tmbg are so beyond dreadful now i can't imagine they keep putting out music for any other reason than the money.

Jonas Bronck (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 01:21 (fifteen years ago) link

long tall weekend was good too.

Jonas Bronck (Jody Beth Rosen), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 01:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Probably "Birdhouse In Your Soul" was the song which got me into contemporary pop music (before that I was listening only '60s music). Still a damn perfect song, though "Don't Let's Start" or "Snail Shell" are exceptionally great too, and they have loads of more great stuff. I haven't listened their post '96 stuff much, just their 2004 album, which was a disappointment.

zeus (zeus), Wednesday, 2 August 2006 06:12 (fifteen years ago) link

"Ana Ng"

sovietpanda (sovietpanda), Saturday, 5 August 2006 22:11 (fifteen years ago) link

OPO: Birdhouse definitely.

I'm conflicted about "Shoehorn with Teeth": either it's meaningless and infuriating or it's wonderfully oblique. I can't make up my mind.

The Mad Puffin (The Mad Puffin), Saturday, 5 August 2006 22:43 (fifteen years ago) link

four years pass...

Wonder if anyone's heard their newer records? The Else was surprisingly good. Very straightforward but just a good rock record. I actually kind of enjoy the kids stuff. I'm a dork.

I mostly bumped this to say that "Narrow Your Eyes" may be their best song ever. The lyrics on that one kill me - "I get off the bus/ride past our stop/and though I'm late/I can't get off/I just can't bear/to tell you some lies/so narrow your eyes" **shudder**

frogbs, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:24 (ten years ago) link

i've heard most of their later albums and while there are definitely some good songs here and there, the children's albums are by and large better than the 'regular' albums. also the bonus disc for The Else is more fun than the proper album.

but yeah "Narrow Your Eyes" is great, they can kill you with occasional sincere moments.

some dude, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:27 (ten years ago) link

I'm a dork.

also this sentence is just kind of assumed when you're posting on a TMBG thread, no need to type it

some dude, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:30 (ten years ago) link

Yeah I was surprised by the amount of effort they put into those kids albums. They remind me of the earlier stuff but with somewhat dumber lyrics. I don't know if they're better than The Else but some of it is very good. "Can You Find It?" and "C is For Conifers" are just oddly touching, I guess

frogbs, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:39 (ten years ago) link

the kids stuff is fun. for the most part, not all that diff (musically at least) from their regular stuff. and kids do indeed love it.

tylerw, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:41 (ten years ago) link

the bonus disc for The Else is more fun than the proper album

Oh, fer sher! "Why the Christ, why the Devil, Why did you grow a beard?!?"

Of the later stuff, "Mink Car" is brilliant but "The Spine" is their absolute nadir, just completely unredeemable.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:03 (ten years ago) link

Oh, and Tyler I wanna party with you, always find you on my fave threads. :-)

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:05 (ten years ago) link

Really really liked "Brain Problem Situation", "We Live in a Dump", "Yeah, the Deranged Millionaire" and "Cast Your Pod to the Wind". I don't think it's better than the main disc but it's a great bonus. TMBG were really a band built for these types of podcasts.

Agree that "The Spine" is the worst. I mean it is fairly decent in spots but I really hate how every song on the first half sounds like every other song on the first half. I really liked "Broke in Two"

frogbs, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:11 (ten years ago) link

haaa right back atcha, gerald. and i agree about the spine -- i remember listening to that a bunch and deciding it really was *bad*. or just completely lifeless.

tylerw, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:12 (ten years ago) link

So these guys are releasing a new album this year and will be touring the US in September. Which is when I was thinking of visiting. They've already announced a few cities and SF and ATL are among them so now I am really really wondering I cant only get over but get to see the beloves Johns live again woo!

berk psychosis (Trayce), Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:17 (ten years ago) link

Here was my review:

"John Flansburgh, attempting to describe why "Sensurround" was left off of Factory Showroom: "For me, I think of every song as its own thing. I think it's interesting to see the shape of an album after it's put together; you can create a different listening experience depending on how you stack up the songs. The most discipline that we ever apply to an album sequence is avoiding like-sounding songs. If we have too many mid-tempo songs, we'll leave a couple of them off. Or if we have a better example of a song than another, we tend to leave the second-rate one off." Ignoring the fact that I find “Sensurround” to be perhaps the best song of the Factory Showroom era, I really do like the sentiment behind this statement. So it's a little disappointing to find them pretty much ignoring their old values - here comes The Spine, a disc that fills nearly the entire first half with mid-tempo rockers, of which only “Experimental Film” makes an impression. No, none of these songs are bad in isolation, but stacked one after another gives the album a really bland feel, completely atypical of what we’ve come to expect from these guys. The experimentation is toned down – there’s auto-tune on “Bastard Wants to Hit Me”, and one song that’s reminiscent of Flood but only about half as catchy (“Stalk of Wheat”). Other than that, they’ve almost fully transformed into your typical rock band, although the lyrical puzzles are still abound – Linnell sings about resignation from life (“Memo to Human Resources”), drug addiction (“Thunderbird”), and bizarre strings of cause-and-effect relationships (“Wearing a Raincoat”). The unfortunate thing is that the lyrics are the really the only interesting parts of them. I’m not exactly sure what happened here – maybe they purposely decided to write a more “adult” album to offset the kids’ one – but this group never really did the “mature adult rock” thing in the first place. The saving grace of the album is that side 2 has a few legitimately great tracks - “Museum of Idiots” gets by on a strong and punchy horn section, “Damn Good Times” is an energetic slice of power-pop with an accelerating guitar solo ending, and “Broke In Two” rides a wonky guitar line into the stratospheres of catchiness that this group was always capable of. But other than those tracks (and “Experimental Film”), there’s little on here you’ll want to hear again. So give it credit for those few great songs and making an album that’s at least listenable all the way through, but you know the band can do better than this. It's funny to hear them sing on "Stalk of Wheat" that they're "out of ideas", but less funny when it actually seems true."

frogbs, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:18 (ten years ago) link

I stil havent got round to hearing some recent albums. I love "Sensurround", its a great song.

berk psychosis (Trayce), Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:22 (ten years ago) link

i've heard most of their later albums and while there are definitely some good songs here and there, the children's albums are by and large better than the 'regular' albums.

"The Spine" is their absolute nadir,

agree with all this

yesterday's twat (sic), Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:38 (ten years ago) link

i covered "narrow your eyes" for a fan-assembled TMBG tribute album when i was like 16

congratulations (n/a), Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:40 (ten years ago) link

At parties some of us have been known to break out into spontaneous acapella barbershop renditions of "Kiss me, son of god".

berk psychosis (Trayce), Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:43 (ten years ago) link

this song is so good

frogbs, Friday, 27 December 2019 17:56 (one year ago) link

sic's campaigning/voting thread (linked above) is probably (still) the most, um, encyclopedic such thread I've seen. Bless.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Sunday, 29 December 2019 11:58 (one year ago) link

and it only covers the first 20 years (which I think now was a good call). and they've only been MORE prolific since then, I'm pretty sure

Vinnie, Monday, 30 December 2019 02:23 (one year ago) link

its hard to tell, they weren't able to release outtakes albums every 3 years or so like they are now

frogbs, Monday, 30 December 2019 02:54 (one year ago) link

didn't they put out like 3 albums last year not even counting the John Henry demos

Nhex, Monday, 30 December 2019 04:41 (one year ago) link

Three studio albums plus an outtakes disc plus a live album plus the remastered John Henry Demos

weren't able to release outtakes albums every 3 years or so like they are now

I didn't track '80s and '90s Dial-A-Songs that never turned into released tracks in that poll, though. Balance may have been more even with those in.

Even with things like releasing a song a week in 2015 and 2018, writing and performing a new song at every venue on a 2004 tour, my feeling is that the eMusic era is still their most consistently prolific:

The first 17 years of this poll saw about 280 songs released; the next four see another 130 or so, not counting dozens of cues and miniatures for Malcolm In The Middle.

The cascade of music this year (2001) included 75 new songs. Lennon/McCartney wrote 121 in a decade.

Once or twice a month I open and poke at the spreadsheet for a 2003-2019 listening thread, and all of a sudden it's seven hours later and I'm A-B-C-D-E-ing two people's rips of Clock Radio tracks against a tape transfer and a streaming rip of the same song in Dial-A-Song form and the ParticleMen upload, and making notes in ID3 tags on which ones are different or more listenable and my hips hurt

don't care didn't ask still clappin (sic), Monday, 30 December 2019 06:35 (one year ago) link

(quick count looks like 78 songs in 2004, including covers and TV themes and Homestar Runner collabs. Only 44 new songs last year, plus one they wrote for the third album but ran out of time to record.)

don't care didn't ask still clappin (sic), Monday, 30 December 2019 06:48 (one year ago) link

Picture disc 30th anniversary reissue of Flood.

The A-side features the original Flood album cover art and the B-side is a brand new animated psychedelic zoetrope image of TMBG ephemera created by Paul Sahre. You will need a phone and a glass hookah to experience it in its full psychedelic glory! (Viewing instructions are included on the LP jacket.) Buy two and sell the second on eBay for the price of both!

don't care didn't ask still clappin (sic), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 05:14 (one year ago) link

ok that is p cool

Suggest Banshee (Hadrian VIII), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 05:51 (one year ago) link

In the series "lyrics snippets that haven't aged all that well":

Why is the world in love again?
Why are we marching hand in hand?
Why are the ocean levels rising up?

anatol_merklich, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 08:02 (one year ago) link

ok yeah I had to order that

frogbs, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 14:37 (one year ago) link

The free download of FLOOD LIVE IN AUSTRALIA has been reposted on our website’s Downloads page but it leaves on February 1 (for something else free!).

don't care didn't ask still clappin (sic), Thursday, 16 January 2020 06:25 (one year ago) link


Nhex, Thursday, 16 January 2020 12:15 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

lmao "gonna tell my kids this was Animal Collective"

frogbs, Monday, 9 March 2020 14:29 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Restreaming a previously subscriber-only concert from 2015 this evening on youtube, for pandemic party times.

The TMBG Watch Party goes up at 11pm London, 7pm Eastern US, 4pm Pacific US, 10am in Sydney, 8am Tokyo. We will be streaming a performance of a Brooklyn show from October 2015, and as it streams you can chat in real-time with other TMBGers.

For spoilers, here's the setlist for this "Horntoberfest"-themed gig.

Dollarmite Is My Name (sic), Friday, 27 March 2020 18:33 (one year ago) link

whoa, that's an awesome setlist

saw them on this most recent tour where they were doing Flood in its entirely, one of their last gigs before they all got cancelled in fact. without coming off too fanboyish they really do seem to get better every time I see them. the wonky "Spy" improv included a sample of The Eagles "Take It To The Limit" which was one of the funniest things I've ever seen them do

frogbs, Friday, 27 March 2020 18:44 (one year ago) link

I'll be watching the Steven Universe finale but will probably catch up with that later

Nhex, Friday, 27 March 2020 18:53 (one year ago) link

Suspect it won't be archived, but should run longer than Steven Universe to join in when you get a chance.

Dollarmite Is My Name (sic), Friday, 27 March 2020 22:54 (one year ago) link

For spoilers, here's the setlist🕸 for this "Horntoberfest"-themed gig.

guessing they’re starting with set 2

karmic blowback for dissing pip and jane baker (Autumn Almanac), Friday, 27 March 2020 23:09 (one year ago) link

First set was probably a tech rehearsal, given some of the glitches still in the first few songs here.

Dollarmite Is My Name (sic), Friday, 27 March 2020 23:31 (one year ago) link

yeah, it’s a mess, i bailed

karmic blowback for dissing pip and jane baker (Autumn Almanac), Friday, 27 March 2020 23:48 (one year ago) link

I kept it on for background listening once the audio settled down, but gave up on looking at it almost immediately.

Dollarmite Is My Name (sic), Saturday, 28 March 2020 00:24 (one year ago) link

nine months pass...

I put a playlist together of my favorite Glean/Phone Power songs:

1) Erase
2) Apophenia
3) I Love You for Psychological Reasons
4) Music Jail, Pt 1 & 2
5) Answer
7) End of the Rope
8) All the Lazy Boyfriends
9) It Said Something
10) Impossibly New
11) Unpronounceable
12) I'll Be Haunting You
13) I'm a Coward
14) Aaa
15) Shape Shifter
16) Let Me Tell You About My Operation
17) I Wasn't Listening

I think, when listened to this way, it would be maybe their strongest single album ever?

frogbs, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 20:27 (ten months ago) link

don't suppose you've got that put together on a streaming service somewhere, do ya?

alpine static, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 21:41 (ten months ago) link

worth noting, i guess, that apparently TMBG has to move all its merch from one warehouse to another, and as a result they've put lots of stuff on mega-sale. some stuff 30% off, some 80%, some in between. i grabbed a couple of LPs and some stuff i don't really need (keychain, air freshener, etc), but was bummed because the FLOOD picture disc sold out while it was in my cart.

the shipping costs are expensive, but YMMV

alpine static, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 21:45 (ten months ago) link

if I can remember my Spotify login I could throw it in a playlist

I noticed that sale too, kinda funny cuz I just ordered the 2 LPs I was missing last week

for whatever reason they seem to be really overstocked on Nanobots, it was a free throw in with any other LP for a while and now it's just 10 bucks. its a really good album too, people should buy it

frogbs, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 21:53 (ten months ago) link

I ordered the John Henry demos and My Murdered Remains, but put back the reissue of the debut when I saw how much shipping was.

One of these days, I should really listen to the albums that came out between Factory Showroom and I Like Fun. I don't think I've ever listened to any of them, at least not more than a song or two.

alpine static, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 22:23 (ten months ago) link

see if this works for you:

the band definitely stumbled around a bit after Factory Showroom, I think Mink Car & The Spine are probably their two weakest (excluding the kids albums which you can't really judge). Everything after that is pretty solid though. I like The Else a lot but I think for most fans Join Us is where they really came back

frogbs, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 22:33 (ten months ago) link

their first 3 releases are the best as are their label mates the dead milkmen first 3 releases!

xzanfar, Thursday, 28 January 2021 01:13 (ten months ago) link

Mink Car def a low point - probably the only TMBG album I never want to listen to again

They're still incredible songwriting machines after all this time though, still love 'em

Nhex, Thursday, 28 January 2021 04:49 (ten months ago) link

when i was super into TMBG - 25 years ago, in my teens and early 20s - i didn't really differentiate between the two johns, who was singing what, who had obviously written what, etc. i just enjoyed the band.

these days, i approach their music differently and it has become clear to me that John Linnell is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songwriters of the past half-century.

that playlist worked, frogbs, thanks! and thanks for the post-Factory pointers. i'll start with Join Us and The Else.

alpine static, Thursday, 28 January 2021 16:36 (ten months ago) link

I used to listen to their albums nearly every day on my paper route and it never occurred to me that there were two singers

totally agree about John Linnell - I'd love to read an actual musician explain what makes his songwriting so unique, his progressions sound very distinct to me but I can't quite peg why. I remember some long article about Flood where a lot of their peers talked about how deceivingly complex "Birdhouse" was, that it had way more chords than your typical pop song and that's why it's so memorable. for example, a song like "Unpronounceable", it's not particularly experimental or strange but it's got his unique stamp on it. if any other artist did it I think I'd recognize it as being influenced by him.

frogbs, Thursday, 28 January 2021 16:54 (ten months ago) link

totally agreed about john L's largely unappreciated genius. i spent a lot of time and words in the ballot poll threads realizing this and trying to articulate some of it... but yeah, would love to hear someone who really "gets" songwriting examine his stuff.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 28 January 2021 17:44 (ten months ago) link

i'm not a theory expert, but even his songs without complex chord progressions have hyperactive, tricky melodies (i'm particularly thinking of "she's an angel," which only uses I IV V in E (the simplest guitar chords imaginable) but manages to use every note in the scale in many different interval combinations. it's also kind of weird how the intro and verse of the song is built around the V chord, which adds a mounting sense of unease and tension before the comedy of linnell's situation comes through with the tonic in the pre-chorus and chorus

tiwa-nty one savage (voodoo chili), Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:05 (ten months ago) link

i'm realizing now that there's a minor chord in the chorus of that song but whatever. the chorus melody could be a bach minuet.

tiwa-nty one savage (voodoo chili), Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:06 (ten months ago) link

If we're doing "John Linnell as unrecognized songwriting genius of the late 20th / early 21st c." then I am once again asking you to listen to his incredible solo record, State Songs

Guayaquil (eephus!), Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:17 (ten months ago) link

oh i very much include State Songs in my assessment of him

literally once every six months i look up its release date so i can think about pitching a 20-year anniversary piece somewhere (to be rejected, of course). and every time, i realize (again) that i missed it.

alpine static, Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:21 (ten months ago) link

apologies if this has been posted before, but i watched it a while back and really enjoyed it. the grainy quality gives it a serious "unearthed treasure" vibe:

alpine static, Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:22 (ten months ago) link

I assume he has been asked 100 times over the years if he will ever do another record of state songs. Anyone remember his answer?

alpine static, Thursday, 28 January 2021 18:45 (ten months ago) link

I loved how he performed other "State Songs" during those shows like "North to Alaska" and "California Uber Alles"

frogbs, Friday, 29 January 2021 03:47 (ten months ago) link

my copy of I Like Fun arrived today, man does "By The Time You Get This" feel very relevant right now

frogbs, Friday, 29 January 2021 03:53 (ten months ago) link

nine months pass...

new album finally came in the mail, only listened once but I really liked it. maybe the only TMBG album where I thought every song was good on the first spin.

I just found out that apparently if you join their fanclub at the highest tier they will record a custom ringtone for you with your name in it. I guess when you have the ability to write a tune in 15 minutes you might as well make some money off it

frogbs, Wednesday, 17 November 2021 18:37 (two weeks ago) link

their first 3 releases are the best but they lost me after that pretty much except Can't Keep Johnny Down is good!

xzanfar, Wednesday, 17 November 2021 19:12 (two weeks ago) link

as usual the new album made me Google a bunch of stuff, "If Day for Winnipeg" is a pretty cool slice of history. weird to hear them doing overtly political stuff like this now

frogbs, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:57 (one week ago) link

I think they're completely excellent up to and including John Henry, and there's lots of rad stuff in amongst the rest, but it's definitely an "in small doses" thing for me past that point.
I say that as someone with all the releases including bonus CDs and whatnot, and for some reason even a member of the current Instant Fan Club.
I've moved on, but they're still a nice place to visit.

raven, Wednesday, 24 November 2021 11:26 (one week ago) link

thats all accurate

When Young Sheldon began to rap (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 24 November 2021 23:10 (one week ago) link

idk if I just burned myself out on the early stuff when I was younger but I actually get more mileage out of the newer albums these days. Join Us, Nanobots, Phone Power, I Like Fun, Book...maybe the high points aren't as great but overall I think these albums are more solid track-for-track. in part I think this is because I get to see them live a lot, and hearing the new songs alongside the old helps you appreciate how good some of them are. I actually don't think their songwriting has changed a whole lot in the last three decades.

that said getting into those first 4-5 albums as a teenager is the sort of thing you can't really replicate, idk if I'll ever again just slam an album on repeat for a few weeks the way I did with Flood and Apollo 18. but when I'm in the mood for them I always seem to pick something new

frogbs, Wednesday, 24 November 2021 23:25 (one week ago) link

So I'm guessing you guys would say NOT to buy that package of BOOK

Nhex, Friday, 26 November 2021 18:08 (six days ago) link

I have the BOOK of BOOK and it's very pretty and has recent lyrics and things in arty fashion.
It's definitely a fan thing. I am not quite at the level but enjoy the fun inherent in the Instant Fan Club.

raven, Saturday, 27 November 2021 05:19 (five days ago) link

this bit from a JL interview is fascinating (the getting pulled off YouTube part...I didn't know it could do that):

We seem to specialize in finding complicated things to do, although sometimes we do simple things, and that works really well. Last year we learned how to play one of our songs, “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love,” backward. We taught the band to play all the notes in reverse order, and John and I learned to sing the song phonetically in reverse order. It took weeks. But not only did we pull it off, we played it live just just before the COVID lockdown started up. We were on tour and we got to play it a few times. Somebody took a video of it, and then whatever the robot is that figures out what songs are under copyright heard our backwards version and could tell what song it was, and tried to ban it from YouTube. Once we start touring again, we’re hoping to revive it, because we spent so long learning how to do it.

frogbs, Wednesday, 1 December 2021 04:07 (yesterday) link

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