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Music / They Might Be Giants

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"If there's a knock at the door, boy, forget about it!"

"Everything right is wrong again
Just like in The Long Long Trailer
All the dishes got broken and the car kept driving
And nobody would stop to save her"
Everything Right Is Wrong Again

They Might Be Giants is the official debut album of They Might Be Giants - funny how that works - and was released in 1986 on the Brooklyn label Bar/None A number of the songs have remained among the band's most popular. These include "Don't Let's Start" and "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head". The album spawned two singles: the aforementioned "Don't Let's Start" and "(She Was A) Hotel Detective".



Side One

  1. "Everything Right Is Wrong Again" - (2:20)
  2. "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" - (2:12)
  3. "Number Three" - (1:27)
  4. "Don't Let's Start" - (2:36)
  5. "Hide Away Folk Family" - (3:21)
  6. "32 Footsteps" - (1:36)
  7. "Toddler Hiway" - (0:25)
  8. "Rabid Child" - (1:31)
  9. "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes" - (1:58)

Side Two

  1. "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" - (2:10)
  2. "She's An Angel" - (2:37)
  3. "Youth Culture Killed My Dog" - (2:51)
  4. "Boat of Car" - (1:15)
  5. "Absolutely Bill's Mood" - (2:38)
  6. "Chess Piece Face" - (1:21)
  7. "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die" - (1:58)
  8. "Alienation's for the Rich" - (2:25)
  9. "The Day" - (1:27)
  10. "Rhythm Section Want Ad" - (2:21)


Do the dumb tropes I gotta do:

  • Bad Boss: Played with on "Put Your Hands Inside the Puppet Head":
    Ads up in the subway are the work of someone
    Trying to please their boss
    And though the guy's a pig we all know what he wants
    Is just to please somebody else.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Rhythm Section Want Ad" takes some pretty broad shots at the music industry. According to notes from Then: The Earlier Years, one specific example is the Johns hearing one exec say "You guys must be into The Eurythmics" when trying to get signed.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The marvelous cover, illustrated by Rodney Greenblatt of Parappa The Rapper fame in the style of Little Golden Books. It depicts a parade of animals and (usually) inanimate objects (with the Johns featured riding the giant blue dog).
  • Divine Date: "She's an Angel" looks at the joys and perils of dating an actual angel.
    I found out she's an angel
    I don't think she knows I know
    I'm worried that something might happen to me
    If anyone ever finds out.
  • Grief Song: Significantly, both of the musicians at the center of "The Day" suffered violent deaths. Phil Ochs hanged himself after a long alcoholic slide; Marvin Gaye was fatally shot by his father the day before his 45th birthday.
  • Guttural Growler: Both Johns go way below their normal voice ranges on at least one song: Linnell on "32 Footsteps" and Flans on "Absolutely Bill's Mood".
  • Kick the Dog: "Youth Culture Killed My Dog".
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "Hide Away Folk Family" ends with ominous-sounding "fake backwards singing".
    • "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes" ends with a deranged scream.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Hide Away Folk Family", a (mostly) serene country-esque ballad with a gorgeous synth-line about a family trying to escape from someone plotting against them ("Hide away, folk family / Or else someone's gonna get ya").
    • "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die" is a bouncy song with wacky, discordant instrumentals that's about struggling with the fear of one's mortality.
      Oh, it's a long, long rope
      They use to hang you soon, I hope
      And I wonder why this hasn't happened
      Why, why, why
      And I think about the dirt
      That I'll be wearing for a shirt
      And I hope that I get old before I die
    • The chipper "Don't Let's Start" includes these lines:
      No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
      Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful
  • Miniscule Rocking: Several songs are between one and two minutes. "Toddler Hiway" is only about half a minute.
  • New Media Are Evil: "Youth Culture Killed My Dog" can be interpreted as being about this.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Absolutely Bill's Mood", which parodies Bob Dylan's use of this trope, including his habit of placing adverbs at the beginnings of titles.
  • One-Man Song: "Chess Piece Face". Well, a "he" anyway.
  • One-Woman Song: "(She Was A) Hotel Detective".
  • Power Ballad: "She's an Angel" might qualify. Linnell has even called it a Power Ballad in concerts.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": In "Rhythm Section Want Ad", as Linnel sings the pre-chorus segment, Flansburgh repeatedly chants "No, no, no no!" in the background.
  • Sampling: "Number Three" samples a sped up loop of "Skinny Lena" by Lou Monte in between verses. "Boat of Car" samples Johnny Cash's "Daddy Sang Bass" during the intro.
    • "Untitled", a B-side to "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" sampled an entire conversation between two people after they called Dial-A-Song.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Absolutely Bill's Mood" is about a man who's been committed to an insane asylum because he's Hearing Voices.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Rhythm Section Want Ad" is a bit of self ribbing, as it described the "two guys and a drum machine" setup that John and John had back then. That said, much more of the song is about how much the behind-the-scenes people in the music industry suck.
  • Self-Titled Album: Named after the band.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "The Day" is basically Marvin Gaye/Phil Ochs slash.
    • "Everything Right Is Wrong Again" mentions The Long Long Trailer, a comedy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
    • "Rhythm Section Want Ad" name-drops Menudo and MDC, and includes the lyrics "Do you sing like Olive Oyl on purpose? / You guys must be into the Eurythmics". Also, the bridge is based on Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse".
    • "Hope That I Get Old Before I Die" is an inversion of the line "hope I die before I grow old" from The Who's "My Generation".
    • "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes" is likely a reference to "Nothin's gonna change my world" from The Beatles song "Across The Universe".
    • "Youth Culture Killed My Dog" reference Burt Bacharach and his frequent songwriting collaborator Hal David.
    • "Rabid Child" is sort of a surreal satire of Red Sovine's 1976 Country Music Glurge recitation "Teddy Bear" (about a wheelchair-bound boy who talks to truckers on his CB radio).
  • Spelling Song: From "Don't Let's Start":
    D, world destruction
    O-ver and overture
    N do I need
    Apostrophe T, need this torture.
  • Stop and Go: "The Day" briefly pauses before the verse is repeated.
  • This Is a Song: "Number Three", which purports to be the third of "only two songs in me".
  • This Song Goes Out To TV Tropes: "Alienation's For the Rich" opens with "This song is dedicated to all you modern day troubadours out there, and I think I know who you are."
  • Title by Number: The third track is titled "Number Three."
  • Wild Child: "Rabid Child" is an eerie song about an isolated little girl who communicates with the outside world only through CB radio exchanges with truckers.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "32 Footsteps"
    32 lies my ears never saw when the floorboards gave way
    32 walls come tumbling down and the night turns to day
    32 infantrymen running in place
    32 boxcars, all of them have your face


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