Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Thirty years ago, They Might Be Giants put out their first major label album, Flood. It's astounding. It's totally upbeat. It's weird, but not offputting. It would clearly make a great lover. But when you listen to the lyrics, it becomes something else. Anxiety. It's almost like one long panic attack. Sure everything seems inoccuous. But that's the thing. Almost anything anxiety inducing can seem innocuous. That's how it gets you.
We open with the Opening Theme, naturally. But it quickly segues into Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Arguably their most timeless song. A surprisingly fantastic background tune for a doughnut store shootout, and help with a very basic trivia question. I'm imagining most people know this song. But if not, it's a cover of a Four Lads song with heavier drums, more modern sounding vocals, better production, and a slightly faster tempo, but otherwise, a faithful fun cover. A song to play at a party. A song you can dance awkwardly to. It's the only way to dance to it.
Man, if there was ever a song from the 1980s that rings true in the 2010s and 2020s, it's They Might Be Giants's Your Racist Friend. This could be the theme song for the very few parties I attend. It should be the anthem of so so so so so so so so so many people I know. It has a killer basic-bones guitar solo that leads into a festive trumpet solo. And it's just so consistently relevant.
I think of the racist friend as Mister Horrible, who is also the lead character of Someone Keeps Moving My Chair. The chair is tolerance and basic human dignity, and the racist Mister Horrible keeps moving the chair (or goalposts) to get under the skin of the other people at the party. It's a technique that totally works on most people, as they get so frustrated at the constantly changing goalposts that they give up even trying to reason with Mister Horribles.
In fact the frustration makes you feel like a returned bag of groceries. Or Dead tired. What were the people who witnessed the confrontation thinking of? Why didn't they intervene? Why didn't they warn you how awful that person would be? Or is it you? Oh god. Were you overreacting? No. No. Mister Horrible was a bigoted asshole. Why are you feeling bad about this? Ok. You need to stop isolating yourself and actually start antagonizing people like that. Or ... or will that make you like them? You're just going to have to stay home an only socialize with people you trust forever.
You've still got this on my mind as you head back to your Minimum Wage job. A muzak based up-tempo carnival blah.
Lucky Ball And Chain breaks through the instrumental. It's about realizing that the perfect person left you because you didn't have your shit together. You totally took them for granted while you were being your own mess of anxiety. Oh God. This happy album is just constantly battling the depression of every day life. Your inability to handle conflict or properly appreciate loved ones is ruining your life in totally avoidable ways. What are you doing with your life?
The thing is ... the person who left you? She's not the most important in the world. You're not the most important person in her world. But she wants to see you again. Slowly Twisting. Life is constantly like this. People wanting imperfect things. It's okay to be imperfect.
Not everyone can be stable. Oh sure, We Want A Rock to lash our life to. But it's not out there. Everything is a mess of jangly string instruments and Casio keyboards. Life is upbeat soft rock songs about how terrible life is, and how we always want what we don't have. It sounds relentlessly happy if you don't pay any attention to the lyrics.
Scattershot xylophone and ringing Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love will hit you if you're not careful. Love won't save you, though. Certainly not if you're imagining them as a violent explosion of gunshots. Best not to dwell on it for more than a minute and a half or so.
It's best to just to try and be the best you you can possibly be, right? Isn't that what all self-help is really about. And your anxiety means you need help. But you don't want anybody else to help because you hate asking people for help, so self-help is the best way to go, right? It's not just Whisling In The Dark, is it? But what ... if ... you don't know which part of your self is the best part? Nevermind. Everything will be fine. Is fine. Whistling. Whistling. Dark. Dark.
We take a break from your regularly scheduled anxiety to present some scientific facts. In this peppy number we explain Why Does The Sun Shine. Doesn't it feel great to talk about something you're an expert at that certainly won't ever be proven wrong. Science! Enjoy these permanent facts about the sun!
Good work, Particle Man. Yeah, that's right. You used to get teased in school because you liked science. So many stupid nicknames. Oh, and you liked geometry. Why was everything you loved so derisible? Oh well. Don't dwell on the past. School if so far in your rearview.
OH NO. It turns out that everything you knew about the sun has been proven wrong. The education system is constantly failing us because the present, on its way to becoming the future from sci-fi novels keeps presenting us with new information that helps us understand Why Does The Sun Really Shine.
Ugh. Everything everything everything is always changing. How can you handle now without knowing how the future will change the prespective on what you've done? (You)'ll never know what you'll find When you open up your Letter Box tomorrow.
Anxiety is so stressful. Sometimes you just want to put some bacon on the oven and walk away from your life without explanation. Hot Cha. The piano and the kick drums shake your shoulders as you imagine just escaping.
Let's put on some traveling music, and sneak out this glass of bourbon and drink along to your new life as A Road Movie To Berlin.
Oh dear. The bourbon is messing with your sense of self and reality. Everything is starting to sound weird. Your voice is hiccuping. There's some strange birdsong. The lyrics kaleidoscope. They could be important. Or They Might Be Giants. Boy.
Put in your reality Hearing Aid and start trying to make sense of things again. Sober up. Go home. Or, at least, somewhere where people could use you. Oh no. Work. Ooof. Yea, that will sober you up. The job you're not paid enough to survive at, overseen by someone who doesn't know what they're doing, either. Is this some sort of weird The Bad Place type of deal you're living in?
The music fades out. There is a constant drumming. An explosion of noise. A fuzzy guitar. Like, a fan blade or something? Something miniscule at work scrapes your brain. Then, you get distracted from the tedius fan blade by a procession of Women And Men who present you with positive reasons to keep going. At work. At your house. Everywhere you go. You're through it. You can make a Birdhouse In Your Soul. You can move on. Hooooooooooooooooooooooo. Not to put too fine a point on it.