Tag Archives: tmbg

They Might Be Giants at SoDo Showbox, Seattle WA 11/10/2009


So I saw They Might Be Giants in concert last night. This was a super special show where they played all of the songs from their album Flood plus some other songs as filler.

There was actually an opener called “Guggenheim Grotto.” Their music wasn’t too bad. But it seemed really inappropriate as an opener to TMBG. Like their songs were about love and pretty serious without any funny lyrics at all. You could kind of tell the crowd was not into them. I felt they should’ve had a more appropriate opener, but oh well. I guess there aren’t really a bunch of bands that are like TMBG and could open for them.

They didn’t actually go on stage til around 10pm, opening with some kind of song about elements. I haven’t listened to their kid’s albums, so this one was new to me. Then they did some other songs before launching into Flood. Along the way they also did some weird puppet show, but it seemed like they had less random stage stuff than the last concert I saw, where they channeled a dead person or something.

For the most part they played songs from Flood in sequence, though for some reason they rearranged Racist Friend and maybe also Particle Man. I think some of the fans were like “WTF” because of that. Personally I’ve listened through Flood so many times that it seems like one giant song. So any break in the sequence is pretty noticeable.

While I like the concept of playing a whole album for a concert (plus other songs), in practice it seems kind of absurd. Some songs just don’t make sense live, like Hearing Aid or Minimum Wage. But in the spirit of experimentation and randomness I can accept it. While Flood is a really good album, I would’ve liked to hear more songs from other albums, too. They did play She’s An Angel, which was cool. And Famous Polka, The Mesopotamians (which I guess they use a lot as a pseudo closer), Shoehorn With Teeth and Why Does The Sun Shine? But what about Ana Ng and Don’t Let’s Start? I guess you can’t fit all their songs into one concert…

As with the last time I saw them (almost exactly two years ago to the date!), TMBG is really good live. Some of the Flood songs seemed a bit under-rehearsed, but besides that they were good. Linnell sang a wrong lyric in Letterbox and I think everyone noticed. Also, random thought of the concert: “Is it weird that there is a giant room of people all singing along to a song about buying prosthetic foreheads to wear on their real heads? I guess not.”

Also similar to last time, the band left, then came back for two or three songs, then left again. At this point I was really tired and started walking off. But then they did a second encore! That’s how you know they’re professionals. I just hope they don’t push it so much that each song requires an additional encore, starting from the first song played. That would get tiring. The last song they did was Fingertips from Apollo 18, which I think they also did the previous concert I saw. It’s a crowd-pleaser.

Hopefully I will get to see They Might Be Giants again some time. They really are fantastic live (especially Linnell’s piercing voice) and really fun, too.

They Might Be Giants Concert @ The Mighican Theater!

I just got back from the TMBG Concert.

So the opening band was called Oppenheimer. They’re two guys from Northern Ireland, apparently. The band seems like a suitable opener for TMBG, since they consist of two guys. The bald guy plays drums and sings, and the slightly chubby one plays guitar and sings with the robot-inducing keyboard thing. Voicebox?

I’m glad I got The Else before this concert, because it sucks not knowing the songs when a band plays it live. Something about having to process the song instead of sort of knowing what’s going to happen. With Oppenheimer, I didn’t know any songs, so it was sorta hard to get it. Plus their songs were all very electronicy. Like with sustained chords and such. They were pretty cool though. The chubby guitarist also seemed really into it, sort of like a guitar-playing Star Wars Kid!

TMBG started off with one of their new songs, The Cap’m and ended up playing quite a few of The Else songs. After the first song, Flans told everyone to go stand in the front, so I ran into the aisle to the 10th row or so. Maybe closer. That was cool, since my seat was right behind an Amazonian lady. Nothing against her, but I couldn’t see Oppenheimer because of her massive head (and its height).

So I got to rock out in the aisle the whole show. It was cool! They played a mix of songs mostly from their newer albums (The Else, The Spine, and Mink Car) and a few of the “classics.” They didn’t play Ana Ng, Don’t Let’s Start or She’s an Angel, which was kind of dissapointing. But they did play The Famous Polka! Without the words… Ooh, they played Why Does The Sun Shine? and Meet James Ensor though, which almost makes up for it. And Doctor Worm. And New York City. It was a good show.

If I could have done the playlist, I’d have taken off Cyclops Rock (though it actually sounds good live) and XTC Vs Adam Ant. They also played this weird song where they listed countries in alphabetical order that I’ve never heard before. It must be off the kid’s album. With those songs removed, I would’ve added those previously mentioned unplayed songs, and maybe some of Linnell’s state songs (Montana!).

Also strange was the absence of my favorite song of the new album, Upside Down Frown… It made me turn my smile upside down. Temporarily. They did play the Mesopotamian one though.

Singing-wise, they were very good. I actually think they sound better live. There’s a lot more energy in their live show that doesn’t get transmitted in the CDs. Linnell really belts it out, as well as Flansburgh (especially during Istanbul (not Constantinpole)’s interlude part. Some songs that I’ve disliked in the past sounded better live.

They also had some weird skits, like they made a phone call with some dead person. Tonight (I dunno if it changes) was Jerry Orbach, who I didn’t even realize was dead! Apparently the rest of the audience didn’t know who he was by his name (along with me), since They sorta had to explain the gag. Then Jerry (Flans) and Linnell (Linnell) had a duet.

TMBG left somewhat suddenly after playing their Mesopotamian song. Then the audience started clapping and the house lights didn’t go on, so we kept clapping and yelling until the band came back to play more songs. Then they played a couple more songs and left again. Then we got them to come back again. I know it’s part of the showmanship thing, but playing a part in this rehearsed set of events kind of makes me feel used. Psychologically though, I guess it was better than if they just said “so long!” after their real last song.

Having played quite a few gigs in a band myself, I can say that people sort of expect you to play another song after you say you’re done. So it’s always kind of good to cover your ass by saying you’re done when you’re not. Because fans get pretty pissed when you quit without doing an encore. Except if you fucked up that night, which also happened a lot in the band I was in. But I digress…

Overall, it was a cool show, and I think I got my money’s worth. It’s sort of strange seeing these people that you’ve heard for years actually making music on the fly. Like “whoa, this music is made by real people!” I’d have stayed and tried to get something autographed, but I heard that they weren’t going to meet fans after the show. I went to the merch place and they had CDs that were pre-autographed. Sort of lame, really. It’s not like the CDs were priced any higher than normal, but at least show up to say hi to the fans! Okay, I didn’t stick around, so maybe they did, but they definitely gave the impression of not caring with the pre-autographed stuff.

If I ever get a chance to see them again, I’ll probably take it. I had a good time. If this was an eBay transaction, it’s probably go something like: “SUPER FAST SHIPPING GREAT COMM WOULD BUY FROM AGAIN AAAA+++++++!!!!!!” But don’t they all?

They Might Be Giants: The Else – CD Review!


Whoa, so I just got The Else in the mail. And just in time, since the TMBG concert is tomorrow night! I had gotten psyched for it this weekend by watching the TMBG documentary, Gigantic. I guess I could’ve written about it too. Maybe I will later. But this is a review of the new(ish) CD!


1. I’m Impressed
I think They Might Be Giants is trying to trick reviewers into giving good reviews of the CD by calling their first song “I’m Impressed.” And either by cognitive osmosis or pure wordplay, the reviewer will somehow work in the phrase into his/her review. This is a Linnell song, apparently. I just assume that whoever sings the song is the person who wrote it.

Umm… The actual song seems to be about a guy who’s impressed by natural disasters (like plane crashes and Godzilla attacks). But he’s also scared. I guess I’d give it a solid 7? Maybe a 6.

2. Take Out The Trash
This is a Flansburgh song. He’s petitioning for a girl to dump some dude. And it’s Thursday now.

The song’s not particularly melodic, instead featuring Flansburgh’s trademark “Olive Oyl-like singing.” It’s nothing special. 5?

3. Upside Down Frown
This may be the best song of the album. It’s a Linnell. There’s this crazy frantic drumbeat underneath the calm guitar strumming. I like it!

Like all good TMBG songs, this one’s meaning can be left to interpretation. I think it’s about some dude getting dumped who seems happy about it. I guess he’s taken the oft-given advice to turn his frown upside down. The only problem is that obviously sad people who are smiling seem kinda sinister/crazy… I give it a 9!

4. Climbing The Walls
This is a song about a dude who is way too high strung. But he’s found a good outlet for it: climbing the walls. I think that’s merely metaphorical, but what do I know?

This is a fairly typical Linnell song. By which I mean it’s really repetitive, except when we get a refreshing bridge! Like most Linnell songs, this one’s incredibly melodic. It’d work just as well without any backing at all. Which I think is a mark of a good song. Best line of the album: “I was grinding my teeth / I was wasting my youth / And using up my teeth.” I’ll give it a 7.5.

5. Careful What You Pack
Okay, this is the “Flansburgh sings like a girl” song of the album.

This song doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not fun to listen to. 3.

6. The Cap’m
Is this song about Captain Crunch? No. It’s about a guy who likes to be called the “Cap’m.” Apparently people think you can’t be called that unless you drive a boat.

There’s nothing really striking about this song. It’s musical filler. It sounds like it was written in less than an hour. Which is bad, in this case. Especially given this is a Linnell song. I’d give it a 5.

7. With The Dark
John Flansburgh sings some harmony with himself in this song. But I think they’re questionable harmonies. At least this one’s sort of funky (by which I mean, there are some funky horns)!

There’s some nautical elements in this song, which make me think it might fit in with The Cap’m? The song is just all over the place though. I don’t like stupid all over the place songs!!! It seriously feels like they’re just making shit up as they go. 3.

8. The Shadow Government
Okay, so this song’s a little more cohesive and maybe even rockin’. It’s still a little random though (in the bad way). It uses the the quote “I doth protest,” though, so I can’t give it too bad of a score. 5?

9. Bee Of The Bird Of The Moth
This song is fucking weird. Which is good. Subject: Hummingbird moth who’s acting like a bird that thinks it’s a bee. The lyrics are really mind-numbing. A Linnell song, it’s once again fairly repetitive. But the funkyness and strange lyrics sort of redeem this song. I give it a 7.

10. Withered Hope
This song is all about the buildup. It starts off soft, giving some exposition of sad sack and withered hope. I guess they’re characters, and not just anthropomorphic emotions. As the plot is revealed, the song really ramps up! And by plot, I mean new characters such as “soul mate,” “crook” and “motorbike” are added. It’s sort of a love pentangle.

The whole song is weird and great. 8.5!

11. Contrecoup
Contrecoup had a lot of words that I had to look up. Which makes it good? Apparently this dude is too obsessed with science, including phrenology (analyzing a person’s character from their head shape) the science of being in love (Limerence!). He was hit in the head, which made him fall in love. Or something. Maybe he’s just a hypochondriac. Of love.

I like the idea, but the song itself (as a song) really isn’t that great. 6.

12. Feign Amnesia
Feigning amnesia is a pretty good coping mechanism. What this dude is coping with, I’m not quite sure. It’s probably one of the better Flansburgh songs. But that’s not saying much. 5.

13. The Mesopotamians
People think the Mesopotamians died out or something. In fact, they just started a traveling band.

This song is sort of like “We’re the Replacements” except with a dead civilization. It also sorta reminds me of those “band songs” where the bands sing about what they’re all about. Like “The Monkees.” It gets cleverness points, along with some “I guess it’s not a bad song” points. I’ll give it a 7.

Hmm. So the trend of me liking the Linnell songs and not liking the Flansburgh songs continues. I don’t really like any of the Flan songs, though most of the Linnell songs are at least decent. There’s probably 3-4 songs that I like on this new album. That’s still not very good, but it’s better than the 2 songs I liked on The Spine and the 0 songs I liked from Mink Car.

I had heard that this album was the best TMBG has released since Apollo 18. It probably is, but that’s not really saying much. I guess it’s nice that they’re slowly getting “better” since having hit rock bottom with Mink Car. I’m still waiting for State Songs Vol. 2 from Linnell…

Hopefully they’ll play some “classics” (She’s an Angel, Don’t Let’s Start, etc) at the concert tomorrow.

They Might Be Giants Podcast 27A: John Henry Demos!


They Might Be Giants used to be my favorite band. I say “used to be” because their last few albums have kind of sucked. I mean, there’s still some good songs coming out, but I think they’ve jumped the shark (seriously, a kid’s album!?). Anyway, I subscribed to the TMBG Podcast since it’s free, and they occasionally play some rare stuff from their old glory days.

I just listened to their podcast 27A today, which has a crapload of demo versions of songs from John Henry. The songs are: Dirt Bike, No One Knows My Plan, I Should Be Allowed To Think, No One Knows My Plan, Out of Jail, Lullaby of Nightmares (which I think appeared on Long Tall Weekend), and A Self Called Nowhere. Unfortunately, nowhere does End of the Tour or Destination Moon show up. I guess they can’t put the whole album up…

The first real TMBG album I ever heard was John Henry. Or maybe it was Flood, but I liked John Henry more. I’m probably the only person who actually likes John Henry (it’s criticized a lot!). So it’s very cool to hear demo version of the songs that I’m really familiar with. It seems like the horn players haven’t really gotten their inflections into the songs yet, and the Johns also sing a bit more reserved.

If you’re one of the few TMBG fans that actually likes John Henry, I suggest you go grab the podcast and give it a listen. Incidentally, I’ve heard that their new album is good, but that might be only compared to the last two albums (Mink Car and The Spine) which were passable at best. I really do hope it’s good, but I’m not really in any rush to be disappointed.

For now, I still pledge my Nerd Rock allegiance to Jonathan Coulton.