in CAT

They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants (1986)

I was hoping we could start Whovember this week but I didn’t want to spring it on everyone without any announcement so it can wait another week, but beware you have no been warned! Anyways, Colin an I had a good run reviewing nine debut albums in a row and although this is again a debut album it’s merely coincidental. I saw my opportunity to pay tribute to the cult kings of underground novelty pop and so here I am, presenting the 1986 debut album from Brooklyn duo They Might Be Giants. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist John Flansburgh and vocalist/multi instrumentalist (mostly accordion!) John Linnell, They Might Be Giants have had a prolific career producing a clever brand of offbeat pop and this is where it all began. Well actually the duo had recorded quite a bit of material before their actual first album. In the early 80s they created a service “Dial-A-Song” where you could dial a number to hear a song. Sounds bizarre but somehow it caught on and people started calling all these numbers to hear these novelty songs. This lead to They Might Be Giants recording at least 500 different songs before they were offered a record deal, wow, and this is their first record.

They Might Be Giants is a difficult band to pin down regarding any kind of genre or subgenre. It’s unfair to call them a novelty even though they have recorded a lot of silly songs, but they definitely legitimate songwriters and have written some great pop rock songs. The tying theme behind all these varying numbers is the lyrical wordplay and unusual subjects the pair often sing about. Look at some of these titles; “Youth Culture Killed My Dog”, “Absolutely Bill’s Mood”, “Chess Piece Face” sometimes I have no idea what these guys are talking about but I enjoy the ride. The record is probably best known for They Might Be Giants first breakout single “Don’t Let’s Start.”

There’s a magnificent blend of different and diverse instruments on this album and both members blend their sounds together well. John Flansburgh’s guitar work has a funky rhythmic flair brimming with energy and John Linnell wows with his aptitude for a whole splendor of instruments with everything from saxophone, to keyboard, to his trademark accordion. Though both members share lead vocal duties Linnell has always seemed to have the most success with producing the band’s hits propelled by his quirky charismatic singing voice.

Growing up in the 90s I’ve always had a soft spot for They Might Be Giants, most notably when their songs “Particle Man” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” were featured on Tiny Toon Adventures. As a matter of fact their album Apollo 18 is one of their first cds I can clearly remember listening to. With that being said I suppose it’s not that surprising that the pair started recording educational children’s music for a little while in the mid 2000s, though I’m glad they’re back to their old ways now. This band really is the definition of “cult band” as they’ve somehow been successful but are still only known by a select few. All I know is that I like this album and I’m proud to be a part of that cult.

Fun Fact: Last week’s CAT artist was Husker Du. Did you know that The Daily Show theme song “Dog on Fire” was written by Husker Du guitarist Bob Mould but was re-recorded by They Might Be Giants after Jon Stewart joined the show? It’s all connected man!

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Let’s Start”, “Hide Away Folk Family”, “She’s an Angel”