I first discovered They Might Be Giants on a cassette tape about the time I was entering grade school. It has forever changed my musical life. And maybe someday I will write about that album.
For now, you get an EP from 1993.
“Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)” may be scientifically incorrect, but it is darn catchy. Besides, when it was originally written in the late 50’s it was true. And it is close enough to the truth now that it got me through whatever natural science class I had to take my sophomore year of my undergrad. And for all you people who actually know why the song is wrong, TMBG did write a more correct version. But I like this one better. For me the sun will always be a mass of incandescent gas and not a miasma of incandescent plasma.
My friend Jer and I often exchange recommendations. One he shared with me when we were roommates was a British TV programme called “Top Gear.” It is great. But since this is not a TV blog, I will not tell you why. You will just have to go watch if for yourself. It may have been nine months before I realized the theme song was a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.” Like all Southern Rock from 1973, the original has a little country flavor. I would say the Top Gear version completely eliminated that. But never fear. Somehow, TMBG took it the other way.
Apparently if you take one part Allman Brothers and one part They Might Be Giants, you get something so close to Mungo Jerry, it is a little creepy. Maybe I would say this is Zydeco, but I also think it could be a pretty good example of Skiffle. You know, that genre The Beatles played when they were The Quarrymen which nobody else ever seemed to play since? Something about this just says sitting around playing music on a lazy Louisiana afternoon. Or rather, it whistles it through the gap where it is missing some teeth.
The third song on the EP is also a cover, albeit a mildly bizarre cover of an already bizarre song by the Meat Puppets. “Whirlpool” and the only original on the album really feature John Linnell’s sax playing. And arranging, which is harder than it may seem. This version is more laid back and dare I say thoughtful than it should be, especially from a song about something from a scummy pond.
And then there is the lone original, “Spy,” which is less surf rock than I anticipated, but has some horn licks straight from some groovy 70’s movie. Until it just breaks down into chaos. I rather reminds me of The Red Elvises, who I will write about later. Promise.
Really, all of this is par for the TMBG course. Fun and bizarre.