Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Art Of Noise A-Z Of Music: T

T is for …

… ‘Take Me Out’ – Franz Ferdinand (Swiss Toni)

Music is one of those things that I can’t help having a gut reaction to. When I hear something for the first time, I’m rarely indifferent to it. Songs just seem to grab me, and I know from the first note if I’m going to love it or hate it. That’s not to say that my instincts are in any way accurate. For every ‘Hey Ya!’ or ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, songs that I have loved from the very first time I heard them, there must be countless examples of songs that have grown on me, or songs that I have grown to hate with every listen. I think it’s fair to say that almost all of the albums that I love the most are the ones that I had to make a bit of an effort with. I never really GOT OK Computer until the day I listened to it through headphones…

Franz Ferdinand exploded into the charts with this little number in January 2004… It was immediately recognisable, with its chopping guitar intro, slow start and that key moment 54 seconds into the track when the song seamlessly changes pace. It reached #3 in the UK singles chart and has been voted by Q magazine as the 34th best song ever recorded by a British group (what an accolade!).

It’s a classic.

I hated it on first listen. It seemed like horrible glossy 80s schlock and put me in mind of a particularly cynical Duran Duran covers band. It was ubiquitous and I couldn’t bear it.

Then, over time, it began to worm its way into my skull. It’s that stomping, driving beat. You can’t escape it. I’m tapping my foot now just thinking about it. My hatred turned into a sneaking and slightly guilty desire to hear the song on the radio or to see them performing it on telly, then I sheepishly went out and bought the album. By June 2004 my turnaround was complete when I stood with several thousand other people at the Other Stage at Glastonbury to watch what I thought was the performance of the festival from a band very much on the up. They were brilliant. They are always brilliant, and this song always brings the house down and sends shivers up and down my spine when they start on that intro…

So much for first impressions.

Perhaps there’s hope for that new Keane single yet… And maybe Westlife ARE a classic band and just need a fair listen through headphones?

… Talulah Gosh / Tender Trap (Skif)

Like with many things with music, I took my time discovering what the all the fuss was about with Talulah Gosh. I had always been fascinated with the name but getting hold of a record to satisfy my curiosity proved too much of a hassle – reissues of their work don’t exactly flood Mr HMV’s warehouse. Eventually I was pushed into looking a bit deeper into it after I happened, in my fanzine writing, to come across Tender Trap, a band containing Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, formerly of the Gosh.

Amelia was the quintessential mid-80s pin-up for shy, retiring indie-boys; indeed when I started my previous job and the subject of my having put one of Amelia’s bands at a gig, my jangle-favouring gaffer instantly came over all misty-eyed and vacant. But I digress…

In time I managed to get hold of Backwash, a CD that captures all their studio recordings plus session and live tracks. Needless to say, being that they only lasted less than two years from first gig to final single, the glorious pre-Riot Grrl scream of ‘Testcard Girl’. More’s the pity as aside from the hurtling ramshackle stuff, they could write elegant, sophisticated pop music, such as with ‘Talulah Gosh’ (including its quasi-religious coda) and ‘Bringing Up Baby’.

Often lumped in with the C86 crowd, they themselves came about a touch too late to appear on the NME LP that launched the movement and therefore the twee-pop banner has been more common. In truth though, there was plenty of grit beneath the fingernails of the Gosh and memories of them may be affected by the lighter sounding bands that rose from their ashes. Pursey, Fletcher, her brother Matthew and Peter Momtchiloff formed Heavenly, who released material on the ultra-twee Sarah Records prior to its self-induced implosion, releasing their final LP Operation Heavenly on Wiija. Just prior to this, Matthew Fletcher committed suicide and, as a result, the band withdrew the name Heavenly, continuing as Marine Research for a time.

In 2002 Amelia and Rob regrouped once more as Tender Trap which, on their first LP, allowed them to marry the miniature schisms of Talulah Gosh (such as on ‘Dyspraxic’ and ‘Chemical Reaction’) and the serene pop of Heavenly (‘Talk In Song’) with bassist DJ Downfall’s contribution bringing out a new electronic side (‘Face Of ‘73’). As a result of hearing this album, which started my exploratory journey, I booked them for a show in Portsmouth, one of their last UK shows before a two year hiatus during which time Amelia and Rob became parents together.

Sadly on the night of the gig, rain plummeted upon Portsmouth and being an unticketed show, the audience figures were not what I had hoped. There was not one word of complaint about being dragged down from London to play for twenty people, or any “I’m an indiepop star name, y’know” stuff. They came, had dinner, played a lovely show, and went home seemingly quite happy with their lot. If all bands were like that, I might still promote.

… Teenage Fanclub (Pete)

The Fannies (more on this name later) are a band I frequently drift away from, not playing any of their records for months, only to return to the jangly pop and warm harmonies of Grand Prix or Songs From Northern Britain for days on end; a sort of musical comfort blanket if you will (much like The Bluetones' debut).

Once hailed by Kurt Cobain as "the best band around today" (or words to that effect), the Fanclub remain criminally unknown to the masses. They release a gem of an album every couple of years to little or no public interest, that is stubbornly never discovered by more than a few. Admittedly, the albums have never grabbed my attention the first time round either.

I got hold of a second-hand Grand Prix back in 1996, but it wasn't until I was at a loose end one Sunday afternoon a year later and came across 'Discolite' that I was hooked. My mate Ingo made me a copy of Songs…, but it remained unplayed for months, despite him maintaining that it was their best album by far. Even though 'Can't Feel My Soul' is now one of my favourite songs of all time, you'd think I'd have learnt my lesson when it came to Man-Made, their most recent release, but no. I bought my copy in Berlin last May on the way to the airport, but it wasn't until I was back in that city last September that I finally got round listening to it.

So there you have it, a short sort-of-ode to a long-lived band that deserve a mention, although you suspect that if they had stuck to their original and possibly unwise name of Teenage Fanny, I wouldn't be writing about them in this post.

… television theme tunes (Caskared)

Oh I like a good TV theme. Especially if it’s something I can sing along to. And it helps if the programme is good too.

Crafted to introduce the flavour of the show, these diminutive bursts of song are played so much they embed themselves in our memory (and frequently ohrwurm it up). So, what types do we have?

The regular-as-clockwork theme: ‘The Archers’ – if I hear this it means it is 7pm on a week day and I have to make the decision whether to turn off the radio after the 6.30 comedy and ‘Front Row’. The bouncy dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum was written by Arthur Wood and its accordian is the aural embodiment of rural British life, possibly tinged with a little May Pole paganism. Other examples: ‘News At Ten’ (on ITV), ‘Neighbours’.

The explanatory theme: ‘The Wombles’ – “Underground overground wombling free / The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we / Making good use of the things that we find / Things that the everyday folk leave behind”. How neatly the lyrics over the clarinet boogie-woogie set us up for what the Wombles are about. Admittedly it doesn’t explain what the mutant mole-like creatures are in the first place, but they recycle so it’s all OK. Other examples: Anything with Dennis Waterman, ‘Dad’s Army’.

The comedy theme: ‘Blackadder II’ – silly songs make me laugh especially if they’re sung in a faux-falsetto with Elizabethan pronunciation. And Howard Goodall wrote a cracking tune giving it a perfect treatment throughout the Blackadder series.
Other examples: ‘One Foot In The Grave’. A sub-genre of this is the satirical theme eg ‘The Day Today’ and ‘Brass Eye’.

The pop song: ‘The Sopranos’ – it’s been mentioned in the A–Z before) so I’ll keep it short, but the Alabama 3’s ‘Woke Up This Morning’ is superb with its synth gospel sleaze and growling voice of the singer accompanying the mobster boss Tony on his drive home. Other examples: ‘It’ll Never Work’ (Depeche Mode ‘People Are People’), ‘The Office’ (albeit an orchestrated version of Fin’s ‘Handbags & Gladrags’ in the opening titles).

The puts-shivers-down-your-spine theme: ‘Doctor Who’ – theremins are the byword for the future, the unknown and the alien in my book. That’s why ‘Good Vibrations’ will always be a bit sinister to me. But ‘Doctor Who’’s theme is a curious little melody that takes as many unexpected turns as the adventures, leaping an octave and a semitone in its first breath. And I like what they’ve done with the revamp. Other examples: ‘Inspector Morse’.

The sporting theme: Wimbledon tennis coverage – it’s bright, it’s energetic, it was clearly written in a bygone era and nobody has the heart to change it. Very jolly hockey-sticks. Other examples: snooker, ‘Ski Sunday’.

I could happily write all day about these tiny snippets that signify a serious bout of entertainment is coming my way. But instead I will direct you here and give a final shoutout to some of my most memorable theme tunes: ‘Bergerac’, ‘Yes Minister’, ‘The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin’, ‘The Good Life’, ‘Father Ted’, ‘Paddington Bear’, ‘The South Bank Show’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Edge Of Darkness’ and possibly the most iconic theme tune of them all… ‘The Magic Roundabout’.

… Terrorvision (Paul)

Rock City - as Ben has previously mentioned - is a favourite haunt of any right thinking music lover in Nottingham. My favourite ever gig which I witnessed there has to be Terrorvision for two simple reasons: firstly, having seen them live previously (and crowdsurfed) I'd wanted to see them perform live again for ages, and it was with great delight that I finally had the opportunity. Secondly, because I got to drink a chunk of the band's rider. All night. For free.

Whatever your views of the Bradford fourpiece it's fair to say that they delivered an excellent live show. This tour was to promote their recently released fourth album, Shaving Peaches, and they were riding high in the charts with ‘Tequila’ (thanks to the support of Radio 1 Breakfast DJ Zoe Ball and a ropey remix of the weakest song on the album). Anyway, the gig was great, and following on, my friends and I decided to stay in Rock City and enjoy the delights of a typical club night.

Standing upstairs, on the balcony, we were intrigued to see several burly members of Rock City staff start to cordon off a small area with some fencing and then start stacking crates and crates of booze behind it. Loitering around, in the vague hope that the band might appear, we were delighted as security arrived in the fenced off area, and slowly but surely it filled with pass holding people before finally the band began to filter through.

Picking up autographs and chatting across the barrier to the band was a massive thrill, but then one of Terrorvision's liggers left, and on his way out planted his security pass firmly on my chest.

I promptly sauntered past the secuirty guard, with my new found ligger status, and helped myself to their booze. All night long, I drank their Red Stripe, and also passed cans to my mates on the other side of the fence. Trying to look vaguely interested whilst the band chatted to girls and record types wasn't for me, but drinking their booze for free - that's what made the (early part) of the evening memorable. The latter stages of the evening? No clue!

… They Might Be Giants (drmigs)

"Why is the world in love again? / Why are we marching hand in hand? / Why are the ocean levels rising up? / It's a brand new record for 1990 / They Might Be Giants’ brand new album Flood".

There was a time before a girl called Rachel that all I wanted in music was for it to be bouncy, obvious and fun. As you already know my teenage years weren't devoted to music. Typically it just served as a backdrop - provided by the untouchable cool kids – which we mortals generally just arsed about to. And the fact that many of my friends were born to left wing parents who ate museli meant that Flood by They Might Be Giants was one of the albums in particular that just won't leave my memory.

Flood is full of happy, chirpy, moralistic anthems that are presented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Which at that time in my naïve teenage years was all that I wanted. Their major hit ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ climbed to #6 in the UK, and very much represents what TMBG are (and were) about: kooky alternative rock. But Flood itself was not just a vehicle for a hit single or two. It is littered with proper album songs (ie songs that would be out of place anywhere else), ‘Particle Man’ and ‘Dead’ are two of the better examples. And these were cleverly counterbalanced by more typically structured songs like ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’, and ‘Your Racist Friend’. For all their kookiness, They Might Be Giants clearly knew what they were doing.

To be honest, after Flood I'd pretty much put TMBG on the back burner as age, and the urge for a little more emotional content in my music, caught up with me. It was only a brief email exchange with Dave Gorman last year that put them back on my radar and got me to drag Flood from the dusty recesses of my music archive. But I'm glad that little exchange happened, as on reflection, they're quite good in their own special way.

Looking at their website they are clearly still up to their same old tricks. Their new playful cartoons clearly complement and enhance their craft. No, I know they're not big, and they're not necessarily clever, but credit where credit's due. They Might Be Giants add a freshness and individuality to their little corner of the music industry that is creative and different. And long may they do so. Even if they're not your bag, diversity serves everyone in the end.

… Throwing Muses (Steve)

Throwing Muses have to be one of the great forgotten bands of our time. The lacerating twin guitars of Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly; Leslie Langston's intricately melodic bass playing; the military drumming of Dave Narcizo; all used to depict the streams-of-consciousness of a 19-year-old housewife, in songs that would just as soon as stroke your face as bite it off.

At times they could seem incredibly claustrophobic and intense, but I always found them exhilarating to listen to - as the cliché goes, anything can happen and it usually does. The earlier recordings, like the ‘Chains Changed EP’ (1987 - re-released on In A Doghouse in 1998) and The Fat Skier mini-LP, mix the art-punk-funk of bands like The Slits with the acid-fried visions of Americana from Meat Puppets II.

When I was in my final year of school (GCSEs!) I always had to have a C-90 cassette in my possession that had Pixies' Surfer Rosa on one side and Throwing Muses' House Tornado on the other. Couldn't leave home without it! House Tornado from 1988 is still one of my top ten albums and the title really sums it up; as Kristin Hersh said herself: "The idea of the savage housewife is intensely appealing".

Throwing Muses always suffered from the idea that, whereas (for example) Captain Beefheart can be described as a MAD GENIUS, Kristin Hersh got tarred, like so many other challenging female artists, with the KOOKY brush. Even worse, when it was revealed that Kristin Hersh had suffered with “bipolarity" or manic depression from an early age, many critics effectively said "Oh well, that's why her songs were so WEIRD - she wasn't in control", something that Hersh refuted in the sleevenotes to In A Doghouse: “It has been suggested that I was insane during the Muses’ early days, something I have vehemently denied in my effort to prove that this stuff could come out of our girlfriends, our sisters, our mothers. Listening now, I wonder if I was all there, but maybe that was the point. Our girlfriends, sisters and mothers have been known to go elsewhere at times, too”.

Throwing Muses released their final album in 2003. Kristin Hersh continues to make the good stuff both on her own and with her new band 50 Foot Wave, recently giving away a great EP from their website which I urge you to investigate. She seems resigned to existing somewhere outside the mainstream of alternative music (if that makes any sense!). This is a real shame, as I can’t think of many more original and consistently challenging artists at work today.

… Tin Drum – Japan (James)

Once I was young, once I was smart…

Japan were one of the bands that I have brought with me from my mid-teens; I can still listen to any one of their LPs now and be fully satisfied. If I was forced to identify a favourite, I would have to say it was Tin Drum. This is perhaps an odd choice in some respects, since it is perhaps not their easiest LP to listen to – both Quiet Life and Gentlemen Prefer Polaroids are more user-friendly.

Tin Drum is the point where all the parts come together for me, though. Each musical part seems apt and perfectly measured. Nothing overstays its welcome, nothing is left lacking. The whole, the complete sound, is textured and well balanced. It is hard to imagine a better LP.

David Sylvian is now recognised as a genius, and his solo career has given ample grounds for saying so, but here he has finally found his metier – a lyrical sparseness, just the right amount of allusion. His vocal performance is honed now, restrained and yet just expressive enough to give life to the lyrics.

Mick Karn’s bass playing to me is second to none on this LP, and I would happily put him in any top ten list on the strength of it. (I don’t care if some of his solo stuff has bordered on the unlistenable – this makes up for it all.) His fretless playing still sounds revolutionary to me, as though he is starting out with some hitherto unknown instrument. I can think of no other player of the instrument who plays with such disregard to the rules. Every song on the LP is made immeasurably stronger by the breadth of his style – but none more than ‘Sons Of Pioneers’. Listening to it now, I still have next to no idea what he is doing.

Richard Barbieri’s Fairlight is working overtime on this LP, with guitars being largely sidelined. The range of sounds and textures on show here is impressive to say the least. Sure, most of them are busy emulating traditional oriental instruments, but that isn’t the point. Each sound is chosen with precision and used appropriately – listen closely, and you’ll notice that some are used so sparsely that they become another part of the percussive background. Sometimes, they provide a slow sweep of sound, providing a background that all of the other sounds can hang upon.

Finally, Steve Jansen’s drums. I wonder if, given the three musicians he was working with, he couldn’t have gotten away with a 4:4 beat and no-one would have noticed. No, Jansen is never looking for the easy way; rhythms seem to be chosen carefully, and – as with the rest of the band – the textures of the sounds are key.

Japan were a pop band, and it is probably true to say that even this LP retains a pop sensibility – even if a rather strange one. However, it is also probably true to say that the band was on the threshold of moving beyond pop as a form and into something far more thoughtful and far more serious. There is a thirst and a passion for something more, and I think that the band – or Sylvian, at least – was just beginning to understand what it was. Tin Drum is the most experimental pop LP that I can think of since perhaps Revolver. It is a shame that, unlike The Beatles’ first masterpiece, it was not taken up as a gauntlet by others. It is an even bigger shame that, instead, Japan were forgotten and left to rot on dodgy 80s compilations.

… Tin Pan Alley (Jez)

Let’s take a wander into the music industry’s time tunnel. There are the ‘Popstars’ folks committing professional suicide by showing everyone the machinations of the industry. Another step and we see Pete Waterman and his mates inside the minds of “the kids” at the Hit Factory’s mixing desk. Now we see Berry Gordy hating everything that comes out of his music factory except for the money his Motown label generates. Back a bit, Tin Pan Alley, let’s get off here. Hold on to your hats…

Popular music is one of the primary cultural effects of urbanisation. Due to the industrial revolution people needed entertainment after long shifts at work. Entertainment in pubs would attract customers until entrepreneurs started building music halls that charged an entry fee. Music had entered into an economic relationship. There was now a competitive marketplace between the halls; they needed new songs to fend off the opposition so they employed songwriters. There was now a living to be made out of music.

Some acts could travel almost worldwide to perform their twenty minute sets creating fierce competition to sell songs to both performers and the public. This process began circa 1880 and has changed very little to this day. Sheet music was the only method of recreating the popular songs. Radio was held up for political reasons until 1922, the army wanted to keep it for themselves and the fear of Communism kept it away from the masses (what propaganda would be broadcast?). After the American Civil War over 25,000 new pianos were sold a year and by 1887 over 500,000 kids were studying the piano.

Areas were created for publishers and songwriters. In England it was Denmark Street, in the USA it was Tin Pan Alley. Rumour suggests it was named because in the summer there was no air conditioning so with the windows open the cacophonous noise of songwriters on pianos sounded like tin pans being created in a factory. A music factory no less.

So little seems to have changed, almost no need for that time tunnel really.

… ‘The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes’ – The Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band (Ben)

Before those rude upstarts The Arcade Fire were catapulted to fame, the Montreal band over whom critics drowned in their own drool was Godspeed You Black Emperor (there’s an exclamation mark in there somewhere, but it’s migrated over time, so take your pick about where to put it).

Their 1998 debut LP f#a#∞ was a revelation, while they honed their art on the stunning EP Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada and then hit an astonishing peak with 2000’s Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, an album which had four “movements” and a kind of map rather than a tracklisting. Their last outing, Yanqui UXO, saw them verging on adherence to a formula which, though self-fashioned, nevertheless jarred with their experimental bent. The Canadian nontet’s expansive chamber rock has become synonymous with the term “post-rock”, and has been taken as a blueprint by countless bands.

To call A Silver Mt Zion a Godspeed! side-project would now seem rather strange, given that they’ve turned out four albums and an EP in five years. The first, (deep breath) He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corners Of Our Rooms, was a series of sparse, minimalist meditations, but it was Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards the following year that they really their indelible mark.

The conspirators had grown in number from three to six (hence the altered name), and the stature, scope and potency of the songs was correspondingly enlarged. There are more vocals than on Godspeed! records, but otherwise much is familiar: rousing orchestral anthems characterised by a pattern of build-up, climax and release. As the title of stirring opener ‘Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky!’ suggests, apocalyptic rhetoric abounds, but so too does a greater sense of political engagement. The cardboard slipcase contains a fold-out sheet with a dense block of breathless, poetic and impassioned prose about abandoned buildings, bulldozers, satellites, sedition and the state of the Western world entitled “On The Failure Of One Small Community In Achieving Its Own Ill-Defined Dreams And / Or Goals”.

But if this all sounds joyless, burdened down by the weight of its own seriousness, think again – for the songs are tremendous, from the playful gurgling baby sampled at the beginning of ‘This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird’s Fallen’ (taxi for Ms Truss!) to the screeching violins of ‘Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River’, a song in which beauty and violence are fused so closely as to become almost indistinguishable.

The undoubted high point of the record, however, comes at the end. Following on from the noisy feedback-heavy coda of ‘C’mon Come On (Loose An Endless Longing)’, ‘The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes’ opens with just chiming guitar and voice: “Sisters and brothers [that address again] / We have surely lost our way / In strip malls full of cancer / And a pathetic rain”. But that’s the present, and Efrim has a vision of a brighter future; “We will find a way”, he sings, gently yet firmly insistent.

By now, the bass has joined in, its staccato beat inconspicuously providing a foundation for the melody. And then the strings appear, and the declaration: “There is beauty in this land / But I don’t often see it / There is beauty in this land / But I don’t often feel it”. And then suddenly, magnificently, the song spirals upwards to an extraordinary peak that never fails to give me goosebumps, Efrim repeating the self-reproachful phrase “Musicians are cowards” in a cracked and straining voice that, although not “classically” powerful, could not be more suited to the occasion.

The pitch of intensity decreases almost as dramatically as it has risen, and as you gradually recover your senses you hear Efrim – accompanied by a solitary plucked violin and that chiming guitar – urging, impelling you into action: “C’mon friends / To the barricades again”. The song gradually fades away into the night, and the album with it, Efrim once again mouthing the words “We will find our way”.

In the inlay to Lift Yr Skinny Fists…, Godspeed! refer to the songs as “more awkward pirouettes in the general direction of hope + joy”. ‘The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes’ is a pirouette of greater beauty than any of them, more human and less foreboding, awkward to the point of perfection in its juxtaposition of fatalism and optimism, apocalypse and idealism, joy and despair. As such, it realises musically and lyrically the two key images on the album slipcase: one man giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to another (the potential of death and life encapsulated) and a small bird in a grey sky carrying a sign which reads, simply, “Please believe”.

In fact, ‘The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes’ doesn’t quite mark the end of the album. After twelve seconds of silence, a girl’s voice singing: “When we finally cross the barricades with the angels on our side / When we finally deny all the popular lies / When we finally let doubt and worry die / [and then spoken] How will it feel?”. A Silver Mt Zion might not know, but they want to find out.

* * * * *

Thanks to Swiss Toni, Skif, Pete, Caskared, Paul, drmigs, Steve, James and Jez for their contributions this week.

(Incidentally, I’ve slipped Jez’s piece on his beloved Stereolab into last week’s piece – a slap on the wrist for my misplacing it.)


Blogger Ben said...

Caskared: I did seriously consider writing about the theramin this week. What a marvellous instrument - integral to 'Good Vibrations', and to any Jon Spencer Blues Explosion live show. An instrument you can play just by moving your hand through the air - genius. On another note, I think you missed out a real classic: 'Johnny Briggs'...

Pete: I remember being exposed to Grand Prix quite a bit around the time it came out (a friend loved it), but nothing really stuck - maybe I ought to give it another go.

Swiss Toni: That point 54 seconds into 'Take Me Out' is one of the finest moments in the history of recorded music. No arguments!

Steve: Never heard any Throwing Muses, though I quite liked Tanya Donelly's Belly (with a capital B...). It looked as though 50 Foot Wave were going to be torpedoed even before they had got going - didn't they have something scheduled for release around the time of the Asian tsunami? Cheers for providing that link - I'll go see.

One last thing: good work on the interlinking / referencing previous A-Z pieces people - it ties it all together nicely!

10:48 pm  
Blogger stevedomino said...

great stuff on They Might Be Giants, one of my favourite bands of all time. the first three albums are the keepers, but last year's "Venue Songs" DVD+CD set was my favourite album of last year - well worth checking out, as is their "Here Come The ABCs" kids dvd (I have a young nephew, but probably would have bought it anyway...) and the fantastic documentary, "Gigantic: A Tale of 2 Johns". What comes across here is a couple of intelligent blokes, each totally in awe of the other's talent, doing battle with their intellect! i think that cleverness is what gets up people's noses but i don't find them smug, and since when has intelligence been a bad thing?

Some might see them as WACKY but their lyrics have always been incredibly dark ("everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful" anybody?) and their kids albums show them coming to terms with their age whilst still keeping hold of their childlike wonder and a fascination with writing songs that are interesting to them.


on a lighter note, i love this list of song titles that could have been written by them...!

always a pleasure, never a chore.

8:24 am  
Blogger throughsilver said...

I'm always amused when people try to pimp 'Take Me Out' as some kind of great song. Don't get me wrong, it's good. Just far from great.

The main (and pretty much only) thing going for it is the catchy, cool riff, but how many Fugazi songs have better ones? It'd be easier to count how many don't.

'Take Me Out' is a good song in a climate of mediocrity, which makes it seem better than it is.

Coincidentally, my favourite song ever begins with 'T'...

12:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sylvybabes! Fancy seeing you here.

'Take Me Out' is quite the enigma as far as I'm concerned. I quite like it, but I'm not at all sure why. The nasal hollerin' for vocals, the clodhopping riff (I could not call it cool. Catchy, yes, but it sounds so lumpen), the supremely artless bassline ... in its constituent parts the whole thing sounds so hamfisted. Despite this, though, it manages to groove.

I don't understand it.

2:55 pm  
Blogger swisslet said...

I wouldn't say I was "pimping" Take me Out was I?

Don't be getting all Fugazier-than-thou on me. I reckon it's a great pop record. That's all.

Nothing wrong with that.


9:17 pm  
Blogger throughsilver said...

I dunno, man. 'It’s a classic' seems pretty pimpular to me. It's all good though.

And if Fugazi needs dropping (which it does when discussing the jerky, angular riffage), then it shall be done.

I was gonna really get Fugazier than thou and mention a better Foog song beginning with 'T', but that's hard. 'Target', I suppose. Heh.


Easy, Russ. You're to blame for me being here.


12:09 am  

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