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100 Albums: "Flood" by They Might Be Giants

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Title: Flood
Released: 1990
Genre: alt-indie experimental whatever-passed-for-folk-in-the-80s college rock


There's a spectrum, you might say, that goes from "art" to "novelty" and They Might Be Giants sit squarely at its center. A duo based in New York, Johns Linnell and Flansburgh have been doing their own thing for forty years now, and Flood represents the best of whatever that thing is. It has their best-known songs Birdhouse In Your Soul, Particle Man, and their cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople) alongside a host of other ear-worms like Whistling In The Dark, Twisting, Women & Men, the mostly instrumental Minimum Wage, the orchestral-hit-heavy Road Movie To Berlin, et al. Some of the songs feel like nonsense, such as We Want A Rock, which tells that "everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads", but others like Lucky Ball & Chain are bouncy fun little jaunts whose lyrics are downright depressing if you stop and think about them: "She threw away her baby doll, I held onto my pride, but I was young and foolish then--I feel old and foolish now. Confidentially, she never called me baby doll. Confidentially, I never had much pride."

With 19 tracks, it clocks in at just under 45 minutes, which means when you listen to it you're getting a lot of music. It is fast and unrelenting, never lingering on a single weird idea long enough for you to get bored of it. One gets the impression that this is a band who aren't really beholden to anyone so they record whatever it is that amuses them. Flood may be their masterpiece, but you have to respect artists who have built an entire career out of "hey, I've got a weird idea." And I love that this is one I can listen to with my kids. It's silly, but also thought-provoking, and at the end of the day, I can't help but wonder about the issues raised in this album. Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand-in-hand? And why is Triangle Man such a jerk?

Further Listening: I've heard a few other of their albums and none of them resonate the way this one does, although fans I know of TMBG will usually recommend John Henry as a next-step. They've released a few children's albums that are well-regarded as well.

Comments

Kathy Schrenk said…
I got to interview one of the Johns for the school paper in college. I'm sure I sounded like a blubbering fan girl.

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