Turn That Noise Down - They Might Be Giants


So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1990 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan builds a little birdhouse...

When I think about the band They Might Be Giants I think about one song – Birdhouse in Your Soul. I loved the song back in the day but I never went any further with the band, never listened to any more, for me they were a one hit wonder, so when their album Flood came up on our 1990 retrospective list I took the chance to see what I’d maybe missed.

Oh, this is absolutely joyous! Why have I left it 30 years before hearing this album?! Birdhouse is, of course, on it but there’s so much more. The album introduces itself with a quirky little theme before Birdhouse kicks in and then there’s Lucky Ball and Chain which I can only describe as accordion skiffle (trust me, this is a good thing). Much excited squeaking then ensued as I discovered that they had done a cover of one of my all-time favourite novelty songs with Istanbul (I would tell you why but that’s nobody’s business but the Turks!) [this reference only works if you know the song – Ed]. The next track, Dead, has one of the most marvellously mundane opening lines EVER in it “I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before the expiration date” and goes on to be a lovely trundly little piano tune. The beat takes a heavier (but Mariachi inspired) turn with the really clever, and still remarkably relevant, Your Racist Friend and Particle Man is an odd little take on the superhero genre.

Odd, clever, quirky. Every song of the 19 on the album can be thusly described but it never gets repetitive, never boring. These are kids' songs for grown-ups. The lyrics are always brilliant, intelligent, observational, sometimes surreal, often smile-inducing, and these are matched by a superb variety of musicianship – with jazz violin and muted brass mixing with Moog synthesisers, doorbells and wet towels (yes, really) to add complexity and depth to the deceptively simple boppy little tunes, none of them longer than 3 and a half minutes long, all of them works of absolute art.

So, will I listen to more from the band now that I have rediscovered them? Honestly, I don’t know. Doing some research, there are 22 albums altogether from TMBG (so much for being a one hit wonder!) but Flood is such a brilliant bubble of pure perfection that I’m scared to spoil it by looking further.



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