I went to a They Might be Giants concert this past year. It wasn’t the first of their concerts I’ve been to. I went to several in the past. They are one of my all-time favorite groups. Right up at number 1 actually. Right beneath them would be Weird Al and Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo).
They Might Be Giants is made up of John Linnell and John Flansburg. They also team up with various musicians, including the Band of Dans (all named Dan I presume). If you must classify them, they’ve been called alternative/pop artists. They’ve been around quite a long time, and they are always trying new things; for example, they recently started doing children’s albums, including “Here come the 123s”, which are really just as entertaining for adults.
Many people know songs by They Might Be Giants, and don’t realize it. For example, they did the theme to Malcolm in the Middle (“You’re not the boss of me now…”) and the Daily Show instrumental theme.
I became a fan of TMBG in the 1980s. I was just starting to like rock and pop music. Before that I was very eclectic as far as music and enjoyed really all types of music, particularly oldies (50s and 60s tunes, like “In the Still of the Night” and “Unchained Melody”.)
I also pretty much always liked parodies and funny music, particularly things that Dr. Demento would play on his syndicated radio show. It was on the Loop late at night on Saturday or Sunday (it varied). He would play things like “They’re Coming to Take me Away” and “The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati” , and Tom Lehrer songs like “Be Prepared” and “New Math.”
The Giants are definitely an unusual and quirky group, and in the early 90s, they had a hit song in “Birdhouse in your Soul” (“Make a little birdhouse in your soul…”), one of my favorites. It is not their weirdest song, musically or lyrically. That honor would have to go to “Dead” (“I returned a bag of groceries accidently taken off the shelf before the date stamped on my side…”) or “Exquisite Dead Guy” (“Exquisite dead guy/ rotating in his display case/exquisite dead guy/swear he moved his face”) (Is there a theme here?)
The best thing about all three of those songs is that they have a pretty, mellow, pop sound to them. If you don’t listen to the lyrics, you might just think they’re catchy, upbeat songs that you can dance and sing along to easily. They play songs that stick in your head (“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”), songs just for fun (“They Might be Giants”), educational songs (“Why Does the Sun Shine?”) and songs that may have deep meaning (“Ana Ng”), and they can rock out with high energy, danceable songs like “Cyclops Rock” and “Bangs”.
The concert I went to was their Flood concert, in which they play the entire album, “Flood” (their “breakthrough” album, the first one with a major label and a hit single with “Birdhouse in your Soul”). Before starting and in between songs from Flood, they also played songs from their other albums, including Here Comes Science (the latest one).
It was an excellent concert. I tend to reminisce and my mind makes connections and wanders, so I had to tell myself to stay in the moment and just enjoy the music and shenanigans.
Speaking of shenanigans, they paused during the concert to bring out some sock puppets who call themselves “Avatar”. (This brought to mind an old TMBG song, “Put your Hand inside the Puppet Head”, which is one of the really weird ones, musically and lyrically). It was a funny little skit they did and the voices were obviously done by John and John.
In addition to the Flood songs, they did “Why Does the Sun Shine?” and the sequel from Here Comes Science, “Why does the Sun Really Shine?” (which basically contradicts the first song—apparently many people said there were inaccuracies in the first song, which tells all about the sun, i.e., “The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas…”, which apparently is not quite right. Want more info on the original song? Check out this link). Both of these songs are on their latest album, Here Comes Science, and they played several other songs from that album.
They also played “They Might be Giants”, which is another weird favorite of mine. “They might be fake/they might be big/they might be big big fake fake lies…”
They’re good enough, they’re funny enough, and goshdarnit, I like ‘em! (with apologies to Al Franken and SNL.) I hope John and John (and their bandmates) will be back in the neighborhood soon so I can go to another concert.