Aside from bouncing around inside my head all morning, the visually vibrant storytelling of 1988’s For Science by the Johns (Flansburgh & Linnell of They Might Be Giants) serves up catchy ridiculousness and uproarious nonsense as it forces a beaming smile with a genuine and creative quickness that few other late 80s alternative acts could match.
The song clocks in at only 1:19, but manages to setup an entire, otherworldly environment in which a Newscaster announces discovery of a Venus spacecraft. Like they do, a member of the military, in this case Lt. Anne Moore, calls for volunteers to meet with the intergalactic creatures, and does it with a smoking hot selling point: Have no fear. Have no fear. You will be killed right away. After this, a Male Lead offers his body, and his heart to the Girl from Venus for, you guessed it, science. This gentlemanly gesture seems to have worked since Lt. Moore proclaims: He’s so brave. He’s so brave. He’ll be her love slave forever. And with that, all is once again right with the universe.
For Science appears on the 12” Maxi-Single, (She Was A) Hotel Detective released by Bar None Records so yeah, it has that going for it.
There is nothing more patriotic than a green record in the shape of the continental United States. John Linnell, of They Might Be Giants fame, showcases his solo abilities on this two-track appetizer from his full-length album by the same name. Actually, side two’s Louisiana is an unreleased track from the album and is only offered on this “Go America!” record, so if you needed any incentive to seek out this record, there you go.
Told from the perspective of a hospital bed-ridden patient, Montana is a catchy little song about said patient’s electric realization that the shape of Montana resembles that of a leg. I love the esteemed talents of the two Johns and their innate ability to write catchy, whimsical songs about seemingly banal subjects. I mean, we all have these little thoughts throughout our day, like, how I wonder if the birds in the tree outside my porch are secretly planning an all-encompassing war against the squirrel that knocked over their bird bell, but I don’t ever think to write a song about it! Kudos to John Linnell for taking the mundane and making it extraordinary.
Leave it to my clever girlfriend to figure out that Louisiana is a song about the annoying humidity engulfing the stale air within the imaginary walls that make up the state of Louisiana. Referring to (the life-sucking demon that is) humidity as a blanket, John Linnell pleads for a break in the weather and asks that Louisiana, the state, to remove its hands from around his neck so he can breathe more clearly. A song about humidity… again, who looks to uncomfortable weather as a subject for a song?
If I’ve learned something from this green-tinted record in the shape of the contiguous United States, it’s that ANYTHING can be the subject of a song and also, I have no Earthly desire to step foot into the hellish wave of demon-heat known as Louisiana.
Bar/None, one of the best singles to emerge from 1987, They Might Be Giants’ Don’t Let’s Start is a mindnumbingly-catchy little diddy that, when coupled with its amazing video that frequented the vid-screens of MTV, saw TMBG shooting harmonized-lighting into the ear-holes of everyone outside the confined NYC arena.
The Don’t Let’s Start single/EP/whatever-you-call-it contains the genre-bending favorite, The Famous Polka. If ever there was a fast-paced, accordion heavy, punk-polka anthem, it would be The Famous Polka (a personal favorite of The Prudent Groove).
Before the Band of Dans, before the TMBG-ified big-band-sound, there were two Johns, Linnell & Flansburgh. Stripped down compared to their more recent work (anything past 1994), Don’t Let’s Start showcases the clever wit of these two mad-genius John boys. The following lyric captures the whimsically-savvy, yet devotedly-bleak outlook of TMBG, and is arguably the best line the band has ever written:
No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful
I’m contemplating having the above phrase inscribed onto my epitaph. It’s a phrase that needs to be chanted from the mouths of babes for a solid 15 minutes at least once a day. That’ll learn ’em to see beauty!
If you’re new to the whole They Might Be Giants thing, start with their early work. Their fresh jams are like, totally proficient, man, don’t get me wrong, but nothing beats classic TMBG.