Archive for the ‘They Might Be Giants’ Category

[POSTPONED: April 8, 2020] Brother Ali / Open Mike Eagle / DJ Last Word [moved to September 24]

indexI don’t know Brother Ali aside from the fact that he releases a “deeply personal, socially conscious, and inspiring brand of hip-hop.” He says “Beauty in all of its forms is the outward manifestation of love and virtue. It soothes the soul and pulls it gently toward the truth it communicates.”  I can get behind that.

But really I was interested in this show for Open Mike Eagle.  Open Mike is a great “alternative” rapper from Chicago.  His lyrics are thoughtful and political and his music is more than just beats.  His last two albums were fantastic.  I just saw that he says that They Might Be Giants are a major influence on music which is pretty wild.

DJ Last Word is Brother Ali’s DJ.  He gets a little opening set.  When I looked him up all it said about him was that he is a real life pilot.  Which is pretty funny.

Milkboy is a tiny venue, a great way to see an artist–especially since the videos of Brother Ali show him in much bigger venues.

I wasn’t going to this show because it was the same night as Tropical Fuck Storm.  But with it postponed to September, I now have a chance again.

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[POSTPONED: March 13, 2020] They Might Be Giants [moved to September 8]

indexMarch was going to be a very busy concert month for me.  This was to be the first of four shows in five nights.  This show was going to be for me and S.–a night of They Might Be Giants performing Flood!

It turned out to be the first of dozens of shows cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus.

Obviously, my main concern is for everyone’s safety, including the bands!

My selfish concern though is that once the shows are rescheduled that all of these shows will be scheduled on the same day!

Let’s hope the rescheduled dates also do some social distancing.


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newSOUNDTRACK: DANISH STRING QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #399 (October 25, 2014).

danishI always enjoy hearing a string quartet that I’m unlikely to hear anywhere other than a Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s fun to listen to them before reading anything about them to try to imagine where they’re coming from musically.   The opening notes of the first song made me think they were a modernist quartet playing music that was repetitive and mildly atonal.

But they quickly swing it around into what turns out to be the first of many traditional Danish wedding folk songs!

While the quartet does play classical pieces as well, for this Tiny Desk Concert, they focus only on songs from their then recent album Wood Works.  The blurb says “the group recently took a musical detour that landed them in the foggy inlets of the Faroe Islands (a Danish outpost halfway between Norway and Iceland) and various Nordic hamlets where folk tunes are played and passed on.”

The first piece is actually three melodies: “Traditional: Ye Honest Bridal Couple — Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Parts I & II”  The piece begins somewhat atonally, but about 2 and a half minutes in the somber tones give way to a spritely melody that sounds like a great lost Irish jig.  But soon enough with the addition of the other strings it sounds very romantic indeed.  In what I presume is part II, around 6 minutes, the cello plays a wonderfully upbeat and catchy rhythm. The violins play staccato notes that keep the rhythm going while the viola and cello continue the melody–it’s pretty awesome.  Especially as the song fades and each of the strings plays the riff in succession.

The second piece is in fact two pieces: Traditional: Sekstur from Vendsyssel — The Peat Dance.”  Once again the two melodies sound kind of like Irish dances (I guess it’s time to call them Danish dances).  The second half of the first part sound great as the full quartet plays a wonderful melody.  But when the second part of the set comes and the super fast fiddling begins, it s hard not to dance (you can even hear someone tapping his foot as he plays).  The big difference between this and Irish dance is the rather formal sounding and lovely ending melody.

The final piece is the third part of the Bridal Trilogy from the first piece: “Traditional (arr. Nikolaj Busk): Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Part III.”  He says that these melodies date back many 100 years and are still used today.  It begins very slowly and almost somberly.  It doesn’t feel very wedding-like to me and of the three this is my least favorite.

The quartet sounds amazing. The players are Violinists Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin.  It’s also kind of funny since three of the four have beards–not something you typically see on a string quartet. They acknowledge this on their website: “We are simply your friendly neighborhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard.”

[READ: June 20, 2016] Something New

Knisley has made a rather successful career out of writing graphic novel memoirs.  She has covered food and travel.  And, in a somewhat surprising twist (if you have been following her books), she just got married.

This is surprising because the man she married is the man she broke up with in one of the previous books.  The story basically tells how they were on an off sorta kinda for years until they finally tied the knot.

So this book is the story of their relationship and their engagement. But beyond that it is also an interesting and helpful guide-book for those who want to get married but who may not be totally on board with all of the conventions and trapping of the wedding industry. (more…)

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  mermin 3SOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-Tiny Desk Concert #145 (July 28, 2011).

tmbgI have loved They Might Be Giants for decades.  But I have kind of fallen off the TMBAndwagon over the last few years.

I must have watched this Tiny Desk when it came out, but i didn’t really remember it at all.

John and John (and Marty Beller on drums) play 2 songs from their then new album Join Us (the last one I bought I think).

The first is “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” sung by Flansburgh who also plays keyboards.  It sounds very much like classic TMBG (that voice, of course).

“Cloisonné” is a slower song sung by Linnel while Flans plays a very long saxophone (seriously, it’s very long).  This also sounds very TMBG–Johns voice and the sax are right on).  I don’t know why I didn’t listen to this album more.

They wrap up the set with the brilliant 21 part “Fingertips” from Apollo 18.  And it sounds perfect–just like the record, only live and a little more fun.

[READ: January 19, 2016] Mermin: Book Two

I enjoyed Mermin Book One quite a lot.  And of course, I couldn’t wait for Book Two.  And then I forgot about it.  I need some kind of reminder system, I guess.

Anyhow, this book picks up right where the previous one left off.

Mermin (not to be confused with Moomin) has completed his adventure and is trying to settle in with Pete and his friends–you know go to school and be normal even he is a green fish type creature.  And Benni (the round goldfish like creature) is still around to watch over Mermin (even if he is not appreciated).

And now suddenly Penny is trying to hang out with the boys.  Pete and his friends are reluctant for her to join them because she usually hangs out with other people and besides, they are trying to keep Mermin a secret.  They are not doing a good job of it though. (more…)

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anyaSOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-Holidayland (2001).

tmbg This was one of the first Christmas albums I bought, and i would have bought it regardless because it is They Might Be Giants.  As far as Christmas records goes, it’s pretty short: 5 songs in 11 minutes.

“Santa Claus” has a funky bass line and a snotty attitude. There’s loud guitars, a honking horn and plenty of NOTHING!  “Santa’s Beard” is an old super fun song, classic TMBG.
“Feast of Lights” is a simple song on toy piano and real piano, a Hanukkah-based kinda sad song with a bit of hope in the end.  “Careless Santa” is an upbeat song about Santa spoiling Christmas for him (cops are involved!). It has some loopy synth sounds and wild drumming at the end.

“O Tannenbaum” The only traditional song, this is a slow version.  It opens with horns in the vocal melody for the first minute and then John F’ sings in German for the final minute.

I’ve always enjoyed this admittedly slight holiday record.

[READ: December 18, 2014] Anya’s Ghost

Sarah was surprised to see that I’d brought this home because she read it for her YA contest this year.  She also liked it quite a lot.

Brosgol wrote and drew the book and I love her illustration style.  It is simple but very effective.  She draws a normal looking girl quite effectively (and the embarrassing underwear shot is quite funny).  But she also knows how to draw the skinny, “hot” girl and make her look sweet as well.  And lets not forget how well she conveys the ghost in the story, too.

Anya is in a private high school (which her mother can barely afford).  Anya’s family moved to America (from Russia) when she was little.  She learned to speak English and does not have an accent.  But she is nervous about being seen as a FOB (fresh off the boat).  And as such she avoids Dima, a new to America Russian boy who studies hard and is a real dork (and suffers accordingly).

As the book opens, Anya’s mother is making Сырники (Syrniki–fried quark (a dairy product) pancakes, garnished with sour cream, jam, honey, or apple sauce–YUM!).  But Anya is upset that she’s making yet another fattening food.  Now that she’s in America she’s not interested in her mother’s claims that “in Russia being fat meant you were a rich man.”

She takes a bag but throws it out on her way to school (travesty).  Then she meets her (only) friend Siobhan.  Siobhan is kind of bitter and a little nasty (but funny).  She is drawn very angrily though–she’s the one character I don’t like the look of.  When Anya doesn’t let Siobhan bum a cigarette, Siobhan gets mad and stomps off.  Anya goes off in the other direction and…falls into a hole. (more…)

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rattleSOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-“Greasy Kid Stuff” (2013).

3This song was recorded especially for the Greasy Kid Stuff radio show and appears on Greasy Kids Stuff Vol 3.

It starts out like a very TMBG song–with funny lyrics (by John L) over a simple keyboard melody.  The lyrics are about his unruly hair (it needs some schooling).  But it quickly turns into a plea to the radio for songs about Greasy Kid Stuff!

The chorus sounds very “rock n roll” (with old style backing vocals).

It’s only 1:40 and it’s the kind of song TMBG seems to be able to whip out in a couple of minutes.  But it’s really quite catchy.  It’s nice to get some new fun from John and John and the Dans.

[READ: August 11, 2014] We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes

Indeed we cannot all be rattlesnakes. Even the main character of this book, a gopher snake, can’t be one, despite how much she looks like one.

The gopher snake is unnamed because even though she is the main character, she has just been captured by a boy named Gunnar.   Well, actually he calls her Crusher, but that’s not her name, and she refuses to acknowledge it (especially since she doesn’t crush her prey, she asphyxiates it).  We see everything that happens to her from her own eyes. This allows us to see everyday human items (like a video game console) as completely foreign.

Gunnar is a kinda dumb, kinda violent boy, at least that’s what the other captive animals claim (reptiles can communicate telepathically, you know).  Speedy the tortoise and Rex the lizard tell Crusher all about how things are in this house.

Gunnar plays violent video games, disobeys his mom, has dumb friends and refuses to accept that Crusher is a girl.  At first Crusher is really angry about being captured and she vows revenge.  Not only won’t she eat the dead mouse he puts in there with her, she refuses to eat the live mouse he puts in there with her.  In fact the mouse, named Breakfast, becomes quite taken with Crusher, and cuddles up next to her. (more…)

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myhomeSOUNDTRACK: MUCKAFERGUSON-“MC Speller” (2010).

muckaI had never heard of Muckaferguson.  Okay, that is not true, as I see I made a post about them because of the They Might be Giants song “John Lee Supertaster.”  Because the real John Lee is a indeed a supertaster and was in the band Muckaferguson. (And John Flansburgh of TMBG produced this album).  So there.  But I still hadn’t heard them until now.

This song comes from that album.

The album is a flurry of genres and styles, and amid all of this, we get this old school beat box rap (sorta early Beastie Boysish).  And I like it because it is quite funny.  And since it’s only a minute and a half long, I’ll put all the lyrics, because I can’t pick a favorite line:

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…s p e l l spells spell. mc speller and i love to spell…q u e u e spells queue.

he’s a maniac, ya’ll. here comes the heart attack, yo. chris likes food. andy like atari. i like the work of john baldessari. my rhymes are fresh and my moves are hard. i play the plastic guitar like baudrillard.

my name is mc speller and i like to spell…d a d spells dad. mc speller and i love to spell…r h o n g spells wrong.

i’m mc scared of bees, ya’ll cause you know that i’m scared of bees, ya’ll. when i see a bee i run because by definition i’m scared of bees.

yo, i’m comin’ to you straight out of sutton in suburban south london. white, middle class, educated 20 something. i got me degree in pure mathematics. i don’t like to rap i’m just being sarcastic.

r i g h t spells right, mc speller’s gonna spell all night, talkin’ about. n i g h t spells night, mc speller spells everything right

Despite the kid friendly nature of some of some of these songs, the album as a whole is definitely not kid friendly (I mean, look at the cover and, frankly the band’s name).  The song “I Wanna Get…” is all about getting, well, F’d up, so be mindful.  But many of the songs are delightfully witty.

John Lee, incidentally, is also responsible for the show Wonder Showzen, so if you know the show, you get a sense of the kind of mischief he makes.

[READ: August 9, 2014] My Homework Ate My Homework

Regardless of how I felt about Guinea Dog 1 and 2 (overall I liked them quite a bit), it was impossible not to snap up a book with a title like this.  Especially when the book is about a ferret.  (The cover is by the same artist as the Guinea Dog books, which led me to assume the style was similar, which it was).

This book is about 10-year-old Zaritza (the unusual name is never explained).  She is… dramatic.  And is a fan of dramatic….  pauses.  She is incredibly excited to be playing Calamity Jane in the upcoming traveling theater production of Calamity Jane.  She has watched the film dozens of times and has her “Calam” down perfectly.

The problem is that if she doesn’t bring her grades up she’s won’t be allowed to do extra curricular activities.  Like drama.  She is not the best student, so rather than actually doing her work, she decides to do some extra credit.  Like bringing the classroom pet Ferret home for the weekend.  She hates the ferret.  She hates its smell, she hates its look. Hates it.  But she needs the credit.  And so it comes home.  And then she forgets to close the cage door and the ferret gets out.


While the ferret is out, and they are trying to catch it, Zaritza hears something–gnawing.  And that’s when her homework ate her homework. (more…)

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stickman1SOUNDTRACK: DANNY WEINKAUF-“Archaeology” (2014).

noschoolDanny Weinkauf is one of the Band of Dans that plays with They Might Be Giants.  In 2014 he successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to create his solo album, No School Today.  (I knew nothing about the Kickstarter campaign).

The album comes out this month and I have to say I really like what I’ve heard so far.  This song has been played on Kids Corner a lot.  It’s very catchy and reminds me of good indie pop music.  There’s even a feel of 70s British pop (or like Davy Jones singing).  It’s super catchy.  The chorus and the oft-repeated “arc” “arc” “arc” before “archaeology” can be a bit much at the end of the song, but for the most part this is a real winner.

Danny also wrote “I am a Paleontologist” from They Might Be Giants Here Comes Science album, so his bona fides are good.  And the lyrics are clever and smart, too:

Archaeology It’s human evolution From the Caveman to you and me analyzing their solutions (yeah now)
/Archaeology the secrets they left for us We can study activities Of those who came before us

[READ: April 7, 2014] Stickman Odyssey, Book 1

While I was looking for Stickdog books for C., I came across Stickman.  There are two books in this series (with book two being set up for a third, but no sign of it yet).

This book is a kind of spoof of Homer’s Odyssey, but not really. It is set in the time of the ancient Greek gods and some of those gods make appearances.  Even the style is done in a generically Homeric epic storytelling style.  But none of the characters from Homer appear.  This is an alternate reality of sorts.  The Great Whirlpool exists (shades of Scylla and Charybdis), but so does Candy Island and a place called Odonoros and Stickman’s home world of Sticatha (which made me laugh once I pronounced it correctly).  So, you don’t need familiarity with Homer to appreciate this, indeed, it kind of confused me at first because I wasn’t sure if I should be looking for parallels.

Stickman’s name is the awkward Zozimos (which I want to be significant but can’t figure out any reason why it would be).

The gods do play with the humans, though.  On the second page we see that Athena wields a giant pen and makes Zozimos a raft while he is struggling in the ocean.  Days later he lands on what he thinks is Sticatha, but no, he lands on an island with fair maidens.  He tries to charm one of them, Asteria, but is immediately grabbed by a golem and dragged to jail.  The evil King Marnox imprisons every castaway who lands on the island–he has his reasons.

But Asteria is mad that her father is locking up all of these eligible men, so he brings Zozimos out of the jail for him to tell his story.  And it is…epic! (more…)

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cpatain 10 SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Bad Hair Day (1996).

bad hair dayBad Hair Day is an uninspired album title, especially given how great of an album it is.  As I posted last week, “Amish Paradise” is great, (I forget to mention the funny Gilligan’s Island verse in the middle.  “Everything You Know is Wrong” is just a magnificent They Might be Giants parody.  Now, TMBG and Weird Al are pretty kindred spirits (they both use accordions and sing silly songs).  In that respect, this song isn’t that different from a typical Al song, but there are so many great musical nods to TMBG that the song is just awesome.  And it’s very funny too.

“Cavity Search” is a parody of U2’s “Hold Me Touch Me Kiss Me Kill Me” and it works very well, both as a great soundalike (Al’s vocal tricks get better with each album) and the way he plays with the original (the drill solo is great) are really clever.  “Calling in Sick” is a kind of Nirvana parody, although I don’t hear it as well as other band parodies.  It’s certainly a grunge song and, as such it works.  But it was “The Alternative Polka” that proved to be my favorite of his medleys so far.  “Loser,” “Sex Type Thing” “All I Wanna Do” “Closer” (hearing him do Nine Inch Nails is hilarious–especially this song!), “Bang Bang Blame” (so much R.E.M. lately), “You Oughta Know,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (Weezer’s song was supposed to be included here but they asked it to be removed and he did at the last minute–see the video below).  “I’ll Stick Around,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Basket Case”–a great mix of songs that I loved at the time and still do, this song is like reliving the mid 90s.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” is a fun a capella band version of a funny break up song.  He gets better and better at this kind of lyric (“a red hot cactus up my nose” is particularly wonderful).  “Gump” is a very funny parody of “Lump” by Presidents of the United States of America.  Evidently they liked his parody so much they used some of his lyrics in the final verse when they played it live.

“Sick of You” has a fun bass line (reminiscent of Elvis Costello) and a great chorus.  And “Syndicated, Inc.” is a very funny parody of that overplayed Soul Asylum song “Misery.”  It’s a very funny song about syndicated TV shows.  “I Remember Larry” is a pretty funny original about a prankster, although it’s the weakest song on the album.  “Phony Calls” is a parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and it’s pretty funny (especially hearing Al do TLC vocals).  The parody works pretty well, and it’s certainly helped by the sample of Bart and Moe on the Simpsons.  “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is a pretty funny twisted take on Santa.

This album is definitely one of his best.  Just about every song is a winner.  And it’s his best-selling album too.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers

Clark was pretty excited when this book came out.  He had just finished up book #7 or 8 when the book was published.  And so it didn’t take too long for him to get caught up with the series.  I was also pretty lucky to have just finished book nine so this “last” book (although not really) was very well timed.

When we left off in Book Nine, Tippy Tinkletrousers had inadvertently destroyed the earth and the giant zombie George and Harold were stomping through the town.  And, shockingly, they had just crushed Tippy in his robo-pants.   But as this book opens, Pilkey gives us the truth about zombies.  They are really slow.  So slow that Tippy was able to get out of the way of the giant foot (and do lots of other things) and put a giant ketchup packet under the foot so it got squished instead of him.

The rest of the book is simply chock full of time travel, overlapping people and all kinds of paradoxes.  I have to wonder if Clark got it, but he just read it again and he did seem to have decent understanding of what happened. (more…)

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exbabySOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Amish Paradise (single)1996).

amishAl took some time off between Alalpalooza and Bad Hair Day and he roared back on the scene with “Amish Paradise,” a wonderful parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”  There’s a funny saga about how Coolio didn’t appreciate the joke and Al (who always asks permission even if he doesn’t need to) was really upset because he thought he had the green light.  For awhile there was an unpleasant scene between the two (not like they were in the same circle or anything) but when they finally patched things up Al admitted he could stop wearing a bulletproof vest.

The song is a spot-on recreation, (Al has totally upped his game in the studio bu this point) and while the Amish jokes are easy, they’re still funny   This single (yes, I was buying singles at the time) contains three other songs, “Everything You Know is Wrong” a great style parody of They Might be Giants and very funny song in it own right.

It also includes “The Night Santa Went Crazy (Extra Gory Version).”  I recall thinking it was very funny but now that I have kids I’d hate for them to hear it.  The extra gory part is actually the original final verse which the record company asked to tone down a bit.  So he released it here.  The last song is a very strange  an instrumental version of “Dare to Be Stupid.”  What a random song to strip words from.  Although granted, the music is pretty cool.  But still…weird.

[READ: April 7, 2013] Extreme Babymouse

I was excited to see that book 17 of the Babymouse series had come out.  This one is called Extreme Babymouse and, as you can tell from the cover, it is about extreme sports, specifically snowboarding.

What was fun about this one is that Babymouse’s fantasy dream sequence involved Sean White (for who else would you have in a snowboarding book?)  She even has crazy hair under a toque.  But what is all this extreme talk all about?  Well, everyone in her class is headed to the mountain to go snowboarding this weekend (including her locker!) and (naturally) Babymouse wants to, needs to, simply must go!  (Even if she has never been snowboarding before).

After dying inside because she can’t go, the fates align and Babymouse is able to go (her family is given a cabin for the weekend–which sounds great except that everyone else is staying at the beautiful chalet!). (more…)

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