The appeal of oddball band They Might Be Giants

The appeal of oddball band They Might Be Giants

Some might recognize them from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, the Malcolm in the Middle theme song, or their song Istanbul that played during the action-filled diner scene in Umbrella Academy. Others have grown up with their kids’ albums that masterfully weave science and good life advice into their fun and informative songs.  

Whether or not you like their music, it’s hard not to appreciate John Linnel and John Flansburgh’s unending creativity and absurd lyrics. Their song, ‘Where Your Eyes Don’t Go,’ has a sleepy, almost haunting melody with funny sound effects and background vocals spread throughout. The lyrics complete it’s ‘disconcerting fever dream’ feel like the first verse, “Where your eyes don’t go a filthy scarecrow waves its broomstick arms. And does a parody of each unconscious thing you do.” It continues it’s nightmare descriptions with, ”Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn’t thinking, isn’t thinking of.” There’s definitely an underlying message of excess self reflection there that listeners can relate to.  

In a PBS interview, John Flansberg said, “We’re especially lucky in the fan department because our audience doesn’t mind it when we do stuff that’s unusual.”

Students and even their parents can all agree that the unusual is what pulled them in and kept them listening.  

 “They come up with the funniest ideas and they have the coolest allegories,” says sophomore Thisbe Delamarter, who discovered They Might be Giants through her dad.  

The band’s appeal bridges many generations and sensibilities.  For instance Dan Miller, father of sophomore students Anika and Sidrah Schramm.

He reflects back on the first time he listened to one of their most popular albums, Flood. Tricked by a CD club in the ‘90s like many others, he received numerous unwanted discs at full price with no easy way to unsubscribe. However, Flood caught his attention. “What in the holy sh*t are these goofy people talking about?” He remembers thinking while the CD played.  

Indeed, it’s true their lyrics are bizarre and, at times, seemingly nonsensical, but playing detective can uncover some deeper meanings.

For example, their song “We Want a Rock” speaks of prosthetic foreheads and string-wrapped rocks, but there are endless interpretations out there, like on the site This Might Be A Wiki: The They Might Be Giants knowledge base.   

 “This song is about Dwayne the ‘Rock’ Johnson having a prosthetic forehead,” an anonymous fan posted. Others theorize that it is about conformity and people obsessing over silly fads.  

The two Johns have been producing music since 1985 and recently released their album Book, featuring songs like “Brontosaurus”. “Wait Actually Yah No”, and “I Lost Thursday”.  

If you’re looking for an unconventional and witty band that breaks free from the classic love song mold, or you’re just bored, try giving They Might be Giants a listen.