Tuesday, March 11, 2008

They Might Be Dead

If there was a time in my life when I was more suseptible to the wiley charms of music, it would have during the time that my parents were divorcing, and I was moving around inbetween them. No, this isn't a broken home sob story, it's a story about maturity and rationale. When I lived with my mother, in New Jersey, after my father moved away to Illinois, I had no positive musical influences. All I knew, I learned from my brother, who was having a crisis of his own. I am not saying that good things didn't come out of this time in my life. I was over the top obsessed with bands like Tool and The Deftones. I was also listening to a lot of Sublime and Smashing Pumpkins.

But then, something happened. I moved to my father's house in Illinois. Now mind you, where we lived in Illinois was culturally devoid. It wasn't happening in any way, but there was a small thriving community of cool bands and musicians. We also found ourselves, my brothers and I, in constant interface with 20-something college students who, for the most part, tend to find the boundaries of art and look out into the smokey darkness.

For the first time in my life, I heard bands like Jeff Buckley, Iron and Wine, and of course, They Might Be Giants. This was a watershed moment in my life. My father had, since I was around anyway, always been in what I, up 'till then, referred to as a novelty band. After really listening to They Might Be Giants, and looking past the obvious laughs, I was faced with a terrible realization: Music can be funny, entertaining, and well crafted. I was forced to look at The Spuds, my father's band, from a different light.

But this blog's not about The Spuds. No, no, no. This blog is about They Might Be Giants, and what I consider to be their best album; Apollo 18.


I learned a lot listening to this record. I learned that dorky kids can make dance music. I learned that all mammals have four chambered hearts. But most importantly, I learned that you can write a lyric that is devestatingly depressing, with macabre and disgusting concepts and imagery, wrap it up in a poppy melody and add in a pleasing rhythm, and you still get entertained. My experience with what would eventually become emo dictated that if you were going to use a lyric like...


And his face which was a paper-white mask of evil, sang us this song

Turn around, turn around / There's a thing there that can be found / Turn around, turn around / It's a human skull on the ground / Human skull on the ground, Turn around!



...then you'd have to couple it with dissonant chords, angry distortion and loud drums. Instead, it's paired up with a chug-a-lug drum beat, an accordian, a male and female chorus out of a childrens television program, and probably one of the snappiest bass line's I've ever heard, bar-none. The song, Turn Around is just one of many exceptional songs on this album.


My Evil Twin is probably the nicest way I've ever heard anyone say, "You know, I can be a real dick sometimes, but I'll never accept blame for it."


But what most TMBG fans will remember from this record is the last 'track' which is actually a collection of, I think, 21 seemingly unrelated short bits of ideas for songs. As an audio engineer, I find the idea of recording 21 different track for 21 totally differnt sounding song daunting at the least. It must have been ridiculous to record it, but the over all affect of the songs are hilarious. The last track, which has been titled "Space Suit" by fans, I truly believe to be an homage to the music of Bomberman 64. It's an instrumental, about a minute and a half long, and well, it's my favorite part of the record.


If you're a casual TMBG fan, you've got to buy this record. If you aren't a They Might Be Giants fan, then shame the fuck on you.

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