Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
I respect the hell out of a good novelty band or artist. I was fourteen when my mother tried to convince me not to waste my money on Right Said Fred's album Up. When I first started hosting potry slams, the prize I gave to the last place finishers was a copy of the MC Skat Kat album. You know, the cartoon who danced with Paula Abdul in the "Opposites Attract" video. I love and fully support Weird Al Yankovic's near half-decade career of weird. But.
But I can't listen to their music for too long. I haven't been able to listen to a full Yankovic album since probably the same year I bought into Right Said Fred. I'll occasionally hear and appreciate a new song by him, but I don't need to hear it again, or buy the album. Even the old albums that I loved and owned when I was younger.
In many ways, They Might Be Giants is a novelty band. Their music is often fun, often weird, and sometimes written specifically for children or commercials. But, unlike other bands of their style, I do find myself wanting to sit down and listen to a full album of their work. But.
But I don't like how they're structured. This is especially true of Apollo 18, which concludes with twenty-one songs between seven and thirty seconds. The brief songs are great, but, if they had to be grouped together, I'd rather have them at the beginning, as though you were flipping through commercials to get to the rest of the album. That's not what I've chosen to do here, though. Instead I've used those "Fingertips" songs to bridge the other tracks on the album. I think it gives the whole thing more cohesion, while maintaining some of the weird. I hope you appreciate it as much as I do.
Start your space dreams young. Dream moongrab. Dream starwish. Dream astronaut. Dream aliens. Get your dreams into some science. Make your wishes improbably possible. Reach for stars. See The Constellations (I Walk Along Darkened Corridors). Rock out with your meteorite out. Dance a comet tail. Do that thing all teenagers do, where they imagine the citylights are constellations. Don't be original. Be a fun, familiar, weird. Not offputting. Celestial. This is such a fun mantra filled declaration of teenage wont. Grab it. Dance it around your room.
Some day mother will die, and I'll get the money. I Palendrome I (Hey Now Everybody) continues the weird. It's an insectile guitar. It's chirpy percussion. It's a chorus of crickets singing about snakes. I wish I could call it a lunar luau, but it's too cold. Too dancing in the vacuum of space. There's barely any air in this song, so don't waste any time breathing.
It's all sci-fi in here as My Evil Twin (Who's That Standing At My Window) has a touch of brass in its montagey and only slightly sinister keyboards. I wish this was somewhere in the Leslie Nielsen movie Naked Space (aka The Creature Wasn't Nice), a movie which terrified me when I was six.
Death is twangy. Death is punk background vocals. Death is wonk organs. Every time you call my name / I hear the angels sing. Death is Dig My Grave (Come On Wreck My Car). Death is two mercifully short songs stitched together.
Everything comes down a notch. Dirgey. Circus dirgey. Bass-lickey. If I Wasn't Shy (All Alone), is a series of humdrum confessions that sound decreasingly fantastical. But you just want to snap your fingers to this tune, as you slowly walk down a darkened alley.
Muppet vocals. George Takei promises. Superhero snippet song. Ohhhhhh. Spider (I've Found A New Friend) is the kind of bizarre that would have seemed right at home on Queen's soundtrack to The Flash.
Leave Me Alone (Which Describes How You're Feeling All The Time) brings that circus vibe back. A carousel of conflcting constant feelings. Blissful nausea. Solipsism. Relgious questioning. Everything vague. But in rhyme. Which describes how you're feeling all the time. Ehhh.
The intro is straight out of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Particularly Columbia from the Official Sountrack. And then, Brad takes the vocals for a song about The Fifty Foot Woman. (Someone Grab A Hold Of Me) She's Actual Size. It's a lovely sci-fi romp with a prominent brass section.
(Mysterious Whisper) The Statue Got Me High is a climb not a trip. It's scrambling atop the fifty foot woman. The monumantal woman. The atomosphere explodes.
(Who's That Knocking On My Door) Hypnotist Of Ladies infers that maybe that monumental woman used to be an actual woman, but she was hypnotized by some gross dude who is charming, but otherwise no damned good.
If you're looking for more narrative in your TMBG songs, look no further than (What's That Blue Thing Doing Here) Turn Around. Oh, it's still a bit vague about what the narrative is trying to say, other than some interpretive dancing guy is pushed into a grave by his dancing instructor, and lands on a skull. Typical Thursday.
Dinner Bell (I Heard A Sound) mentions what happend when you turn around, and then, the dinner bell rings. Have you ever had a parent with a literal dinner bell? Before cell phones, or pagers, even, my mother used to ring this ludicrously loud bell to get me to go home. When we moved (down the street and to the left), she gave the bell to the people who moved into our old house, and the mom in that family was crackers crackers and would ring that bell and screech for so long, parents offered their children money and video games to dress up as this woman's daughter and get her to shut the shut up. This song is not nearly as annoying as that. Ding Ding Ding!!!
Romantic tropes were alread boring in the eighties. Gender norms were tired in the nineties. And tha narrator of this song doesn't want to be a traditional suitor, so he asks you (Aren't You The Guy Who Hit Me In The Eye) to Narrow Your Eyes, and see his love from a different perspective. Then they'll have a nice friendly breakup because their relationship is totally not working.
After some brief lyrics from the parenthetical title, (I Hear The Wind Blow) Space Suit, we get a cool, sci-fi instrumental that really does sound a bit like how early-twentieth century writers who didn't understand space might imagine wind sounded in space.
The reason I originally purchased this album was for The Guitat (I'm Having A Heart Attack / I Just Don't Understand You). I love this update of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" with its brass beat, its disaffected background vocals, and its enthusiastic lead vocalist. I epescially love its brass noise break, followed by the drums and guitar bridge. And it's lovely bass riff, of course. It's just a super fun happy song. But then it gets thrown into the subdued statements of everything going awry.
(Everything Is Catching On Fire) Hall Of Heads is very very very Futurama. Or, rather, Futurama is very this song. The Hall Of Heads seen through a keyhole, then heads pitched at you whle you try and leave. Try not to picture Fry and Leela at some point. It can be done, but it's difficult.
I drop the rest of the (Fingertips) songs here. There aren't that many, and they thematically link from one to the next before arriving at Mammal, which feels like a callback to the scientific research of "Why Does The Sun Shine" or "Why Does The Sun Really Shine". I'm unclear why this didn't end up on their Here Comes Science album.
Closing out the album is more spy-themed eighties movie than sci-fi, but I really love the bouncy quality of Happiness Doesn't Have To Have An Ending. But the album does have to come to a close. Don't worry! There are plenty left.