Friday, March 20, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 131 - They Might Be Giants - Flood

By: March

Album - Flood
Artist - They Might Be Giants
Key Players - John Flansburgh, John Linnell as well as a huge supporting cast.
Produced By - They Might Be Giants with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley

Release Date - January 5, 1990.

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- My kids love their "kids records" and honestly, so don't I. Every now and then I need to go back to their other works to hear something all over again. They might not be for everyone, but they are still making fun and relevant records to this day, so there is something to be said for that.

Overview - This is the third studio album from the New York based band They Might Be Giants and it was their first on a major label. The band would find success in both sales and on the chart with this record. The band would utilize their "different" sound to their advantage and make videos that would find there way to cartoon networks and be shown between shows on Nickelodeon. Known to college radio listeners the fun and quirky band would see the band grow only larger with more fans and critics joining the fold.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Opening with a track not even sung by the band "Theme From Flood" sounds like you'd think without ever hearing it. Strong male and female voices singing with a light horn section giving you reason to stay tuned. A clever touch. What follows is the bands first single from the record "Birdhouse in Your Soul" an infectious pop diddy with splashes of violin and horns. The bass has a strong groove and the chorus has an infectious delivery that has you singing along before you know it. We speed up some on "Lucky Ball & Chain" a rock-a-billy feel at the outset you hear some mandolin? as well as the accordion gets tossed in to the mix. The track keeps its "march" feel throughout. Another recognizable track, now with the They Might Be Giants stamp on it is "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"a cover tune originally done by The Four Lads. The violin opening with the taste of accordion before the band comes on one hard downbeat with the song title repeated many a time. There are vocals break downs and the guitars and drums fill in the void. A song that is still a live staple and gets it's way on to radio from time to time. The odd sounding "Dead" follows. We have changed moods. With the opening line of "I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before their expiration date". The piano takes the lead on this as John and John sing in "around" and offer harmonies to one another. The track remains just the voices and the piano. A little more rocking from the band comes on "Your Racist Friend". The drums and bass are the focal points but the band flashes in bells and guitars at times. The lyrics are catchy and the drawl used on the chorus adds a nice touch. The very fun, funny and just flat out silly "Particle Man" is next. Various percussion instruments, hand claps and what feels like a tuba offering up the bottom. The lyrics start at particles and work to person(s). Who thinks of stuff like this??! One hidden gem is "Twisting" and it opens with the keyboards before the band comes in. The band name checks the db's and Young Fresh Fellows in a song that appears to be about unrequited love when you really listen to it, my interpretation at least. Another track using violin at the intro is "We Want a Rock" and the band has a relaxed while the lyrics say "everybody wants a rock to tie a piece of string around". Odd lyrics, but they continue to keep the subject both funny and important to the song. Funny how that works. We have very 80's feel at the intro to "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" and the synth grooves prove my point. The backing band has been strong and the drums and bass once more keep things in check. We haven't really heard a lot of guitars, and you really don't miss them. "Hearing Aid" is the longest track on the record, still clocking in under 3:30. Single keyboard notes and a muted horn fall in to a strong bass groove. The vocals are strong on this track and the band is given a little more room on this, even with it being a long song, there are not a lot of lyrics. "Minimum Wage" is sort of a throw away the title is yelled and there are whip cracks..we are all working slaves. Cute, and clever but offers little else, the music sounds like it could be from a western film. Singing as quickly as you'd imagine "Letterbox" has a fun feel to it. Musically its fun and lyrically you are wondering what they are saying that fast (and under 1:30 to boot). The musical breaks add a strong punch. After two short tracks we get a little bit more on "Whistling in the Dark". The deep vocals with according return and the hard drum beats stand out. The band has trumpet and trombone adding to the musicality. "Hot Cha" feeds off what sounds like a heavy baritone saxophone line, but I see no indication in the liner notes. The song has shorter lyrics and has a nice piano fill towards the end. A sea-shanty feeling "Women & Men" will get you to smile. We have a lot of short staccato notes and then a soaring chorus (well about as soaring as TMBG gets). There are breakdowns with according fills and sing along. "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" is slower to build and fades up with percussion instruments before a funny keyboard and bass come up with the vocals. In an ode to themselves "They Might Be Giants" has a chaotic intro, before the band comes up and sings all about themselves in this funny sing along where they repeat their name and the back up vocals that have a "boy or "boing" tossed in for good measure. The record wraps up with "Road Movie To Berlin" a quiet track with acoustic guitar and whistling. We keep calm until about 1:30 in before the keyboards, drums and everyone gets real noisy for 20-30 seconds and then we return to the laid back delivery complete with long keyboard notes.

Where are they now? - The band is still active in both the studio and on the road. In recent years the band has found even more success recording records geared towards children. Such great releases as "Here comes the ABC's and Here Come the 1-2-3's have gotten hours of spins in our home and are great for any music fan looking for "tolerable" and appropriate kids music. The band has won a grammy award for the 1-2-3's in 2009 and they have added music to film, and television providing the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle as wells as Higglytown Heros.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I have seen the band live on two occasions. The first was May 25, 2002 as part of the "River Fest" concert at the Hatchshell in Boston. I was working for the radio station at the time. The band had a ravenous following and played a fun set in under 40 minutes. The second time was an "in store" at Borders Books in Providence Rhode Island. This was on March 13, 2005. The band was doing selections from Here Comes the ABCs and the packed bookstore was treated to 30 minutes (they had to extend the set because they couldn't get off the small stage). The adults, and kids had a great time. We are headed to see them again in June in Boston. My kids are still young enough..we are looking forward to this!

FDF Overall Take - I am a casual fan of the band but the childrens music has gotten me to pay attention more to them in recent years. I've enjoyed those records so I've gone back and gotten more of the studio albums or what have you. Some folks might have issues with the John/John vocal "sound" but it adds so much to the charm. Its fun and decent enough, you should have at least on They Might be Giants record in your collection.


There are a few great They Might be Giants pages like this and this. They are on myspace too. Also, there is a fun page from the band on this very cd right here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

mp3s have been removed...
Particle Man
Birdhouse in Your Soul

All the tracks were taken from "Flood" which you can buy here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 5:26 PM, Blogger Jenny G said...

I love this album.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still my favorite of TMBG, although the kids album "No!" was very good also.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger JamieSmitten said...

Classic album! I saw them at some point in the 90s and remember it as being a lot of fun. I've been known to say "not Constantinople" on the rare occasion somebody actually says Istanbul.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love this album, not sure what song i love more, birdhouse, particle man, letterbox-- ball and chain... so good.


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