They Might Be Giants is a band that has had a major influence on my life. The album Flood was the first cassette I listened to on constant repeat. This was the group that showed me that you don’t have to follow all the rules and you can have fun with music. That first cassette was an illegally copied tape of my friend’s illegally copied tape that he got from who knows where. It was kinda in mono… maybe… It only came out the right side. But I loved it. Back then, I had no clue how to find a TMBG album in a store. I would go to the local record store all the time, and they had nothing. This was 1991, there was no internet to order albums. Not until I discovered a copy of their Apollo 18 CD in a local music store was I able to purchase my very first TMBG album. From there I went on a musical quest to buy as many of their albums as I could. I adore They Might Be Giants.
What is your favorite song? I contacted a number of TMBG fans and had them tell me their favorite tunes. Here is what they had to say:
Jessica Dawson Weinreich
Very hard to choose!!!! Here are the first that came to mind:
Birdhouse – my first hook Into the band, catchy, clever, sing-along-able
Darlings of Lumberland – love the use of instrumentation and I always hit repeat on it
Letterbox -subject matter is relatable
Nightgown of the sullen moon – three words: fire alarm solo
So many more…..
Note that my personal faves may not represent fandom as a whole…but that’s the great thing about They – there’s something for everyone…and lots of it!
All time favorite: “End of the Tour”. I am probably your typical dork, constantly trying to show people the things I love in the hopes that they’ll love it too. Back when the John Henry album came out, this song provided me with my first success on that front. The memory of this event still makes me feel great.
Current favorite: “I Love You For Psychological Reasons”. When JL breaks out the complex rhythms and rhyme schemes I get all tingly.
All Time What is wayyyy up there. It’s such a raw, real song lyrically, and yet the music is so much fun! It’s one of those songs I just find so comforting.
It’s super hard to pick just one.. So I’ll do a bit of old and new..ish.
Don’t Let’s Start- It’s such a fun rocking song.
Trouble Awful Devil Evil-I just love how it has a sense of melancholy and darkness to it.
It’s probably not actually my all-time favourite, but I love the performance of Certain People I Could Name and I don’t think I talk about it enough. The way the vocals are nonchalant in the verses but in the chorus Linnell’s delivery moves up a gear, as if he’s getting frustrated with whoever he’s talking to for not understanding what he means, and then the last line he sounds resigned, having given up on the other person getting the point. I relate to this heavily, as I’m always making jokes which people don’t get.
My absolute favourite is probably End of the Tour, but I see that’s already been chosen, so I’ll go for the Mink Car version of Another First Kiss. I’ve seen some people knocking the production but, as we all know, people are wrong. It’s utterly lovely, and I love how the lyrics are romantic and pragmatic at the same time.
Obvious choice is Birdhouse in Your Soul. It’s got a great beat and lyrics you can scream to. The energy when they play it live goes off the charts.
Deep cuts: I’ll Be Haunting you. Amazing music video, gorgeous ghoulish lyrics, the opening bars are like the slow steady footsteps of death approaching you. And that bass!!!! Funkiest bass line in the entire catalog.
“We Just Go Nuts at Christmastime” has everything:
*Low low fidelity
*Gentle, stumbling synth accompaniment
*Irreconcilable family dysfunction
*Non sequitur spoken word interlude
*The sound of family photos yellowing in a bottom dresser drawer
M. Odessa Asp
Ask me again in five minutes, but right now my favorite is Nightgown of the Sullen Moon. Prancy polka times with joyous, unexpected lyrics and weirdly workable rhymes… knob/abrup-? Amazing.
Push Back The Hands. An ode to that primordial feeling of making a simple moment’s mistake with permanent and terrible consequences. As someone who once stepped in a hole and has had walking issues of various sorts ever since, I feel this one in my bones (and the metal plates screwed into my bones). The rawness of the lyrics haunt me and the tune won’t get out of my head.
Turn Around – a series or hilarious nightmares over a chord progression that shouldn’t work but does
Robert G. Walker
Turn Around… and his face which was a paper white mask of evil sang me this song.” In my top 15 list for 15 favorite words.
I love Mammals because it has a quiet sense of wonder and awe. The song and the album cover remind me of going to the natural history museum in NYC when I was very small and being so overwhelmed by what I was learning and seeing.
Now I Know – the soothing, 70’s-ish jazzy sound underneath the narrator calmly facing dire consequences. It’s my pre-stressful meeting mantra ?
See the Constellation. I was sort of drifting, out of college (no degree), pondering moving away from my parents to another state at the time, and I absolutely loved going out at night to watch the stars. In both cases: “but the city lights got in my way”
on earth my nina. not a joke. I stumbled on it during a weird depressive episode in my teens and the almost excited ‘here’s my song’ followed by the weirdest thing I’d ever heard was exactly what I needed to come out of my funk. and when I’m feeling bad it still works! there’s something special about a song where it seems like the person performing it is having fun and I get that vibe from it.
Unrelated Thing. It seems to be severely underrated. I love both the album and demo versions. The way the guitars sound together, the melancholy overtones. It sounds simple but it’s simply beautiful to me. It got me through really hard times; helped me sing, helped me cry it out. (the first name i go by is Scooter)
Jayne Duchess Gosling
I can’t choose and won’t choose….
Although the live version of Metal Detector is probably one of my most listened to tracks. It often gets repeated as I drive about and no doubt bystanders are alarmed by my squeaky voice piping over the top. And so they should be
Jayne Duchess Gosling
Also museum of idiots. Sometimes a girl just enjoys a smorgasbord of instruments and emotion.
Okay, I’ve got loads, but if I have to narrow it down, I’ll pick two:
Let Me Tell You About My Operation – horns are always great, and the make up of the song itself is very different even for the band, but what makes it is the live version. I think it was the Fox Theatre show which they streamed that showed me how much fun all those little solos were live.
Mrs. Train – one of those songs that I don’t think they ever have or ever will play live due to the the increasing tempo. It’s also one of those songs most bands would never have thought of doing. Probably what puts this among my favorites is the relative obscurity of it and the concept of the tempo increasing as though the song itself is the train.
Of course, the truest answer is probably Birdhouse, since that’s what got me into the band. I think I heard it the first time as a 9 or 10 year old, and there was just something about it that was like a musical drug to my brain at the time. Couldn’t get enough.
Robert G. Walker
The world’s address, because it elucidates a key point of Buddhist philosophy, as well as major shifts in reference point in the Western scientific traditions.
She’s an Angel. It is a beautiful song on its face, with lyrics that sound like they are conveying the feeling of someone completely taken with the initial blush of a new love. When you start listening a little more closely it becomes clear that they believe the metaphor to be a broken one. Ultimately, I think it comes down on the side that nobody is actually an angel, but that is okay. “These things happen to other people/They don’t happen at all in fact.” As with most of their songs, the music is great, but the lyrics make it special.