A Song-By-Song Drive-Through Of Mink Car
A SONG-BY-SONG DRIVE-THROUGH OF MINK CAR WITH JOHN AND JOHN OF THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Hello everybody. We just finished making our new album Mink Car and are happy to say that it is ready for the world. We wrote the record over the last couple of years, but recorded most of it in just the last few months. We enlisted our notorious live band, The Band Of Dans (yes, they are all named Dan), as well as some of our favorite producers. There are a wide range of recording approaches: Some tracks are just us rockin' out with our band, while a couple are almost purely electronic, and a lot are a hybrid of the two, but it all came out sounding shockingly like a They Might Be Giants album. We tracked most of it in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and did the very last bit in London.
- On this track we enlisted producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (who helped us create our British top ten hit "Birdhouse in Your Soul" with a thought that we might repeat that UK success with this song.) We recently contributed a demo version of this song for a bonus disc in the literary magazine McSweeney's and the best-selling UK author Zadie Smith wrote a companion short story ("The Girl with Bangs"). At a benefit performance with Zadie, we had the opportunity to perform it together, and we told her of our master plan to introduce the song to the UK audience. She had the unfortunate task of having to remind us that in Britain, "bangs" are called "fringe" and no one would know what we were talking about.
2. Cyclops Rock
- This is the story of a fellow who feels betrayed and beaten by a relationship, but is surviving. He compares himself to Chuckie, from the Child's Play movies. The shocking chant at the end is delivered by Cerys, the singer from UK hitmakers Catatonia.
- With the help of producer Adam Schlesinger (who's also in Fountains of Wayne) this track doesn't sound like anything we've ever done before, even though we lived through the period ourselves. It pays homage to one or two well known bands from the mid-1980s, but we're hoping the song will be so successful that eventually people will hear them and be reminded of us.
- This track was put together from manipulations of various horn samples from the Velcro Horns, Dan Levine and Jim O'Connor. The beats were then super-sized with wild sonic manipulations and real live scratching by beatmeisters The Elegant Too, but when Mike Doughty (former front-person of the infamously excellent Soul Coughing) heard it, he insisted on taking the track home where he cooked up the crazy rhymes, which we are still trying to decode.
- Straight-ahead love songs are relatively uncharted territory for us, but we are very happy with the results here. It's hard to say something new in such a familiar form, but we hope it's worth saying this way.
- The strange appeal of this track is partly due to the inhuman insistence of the ride cymbal, and partly the human pathos of the befanged protagonist. The image of the fang-as-can-opener comes from the vague memory of some Saturday morning cartoon. It might have been "Milton the Monster"
- This track is a great example of the direct power of our backing band The Band of Dans. We recorded this at Coyote Studios in Brooklyn in the midst of wrapping up our work on "Malcolm In The Middle" and the session is featured in the up-coming TMBG documentary.
8. Yeah Yeah [sic]
- Beloved English pop star Georgie Fame had a hit with this song way back when. He played jazzy electric organ and sang this melody, whose lyrics were set to what we assume was originally an instrumental jazz solo. This was the preferred songwriting method of the author Dave Lambert and his vocalist pals Hendricks and Ross. Our version retains some parts of the original but the rhythm has been electronically tousled. It has the exciting addition of a psychedelic guitar solo by Dan "Solder" Miller, and hand percussion by this friend of Phil Hernandez named Karl who we had never met before and didn't leave his phone number.
- This is what happens when you record the whole song and then write a new bridge, which is then recorded in a different studio with different instruments and inserted into the recording. Kind of like an effect we might go for intentionally. Despair, the author notes, is an unbearable burden that will one day go it's own way, perhaps to be enshrined on a heavenly throne.
- This song is the voice of one boozer pleading with another to keep their scene together: "I'll take back my pinata, it's wasted on you / just spinning that pool cue all over the room / and give back the blindfold that's under your shoe."
11. My Man
- This is the story of someone having a chat with his own body after he's become paralyzed. It's not meant to be sick or anything. Check out the triangle and bongos.
- We recently got to perform this song on the Conan O'Brien show, but that was before we added the two instruments heard at the top. The first one you hear is called a "Rauschpfife." It is then joined by the strident Saroussophone, a 19th century substitute for the Contrabassoon. Obligatory wisecracks about the reasons for their current unpopularity have already been made and are unwelcome. The song itself is just as current today as it was earlier today.
13. Mink Car
- We wrote this song while Adam was tinkering with the mix of "Yeah! Yeah!" in the other room. Jim O'Connor, who owns and operates a flugelhorn, expressed some feelings he has been keeping in the freezer since 1966.
- Incorporating half the vocabulary of our childhoods in the suburbs of Boston, this lyric may jar the memories of many New Englanders. Remixed by the Elegant Too, the track celebrates the enchanting "old school" sound of the mid-1980s inner city even as it invokes the "older school" of Eastern Massachusetts in the early 1970s. If you get the feeling you've heard this song before then this song is dedicated to you.
- There are a few songs from way back when that must be acknowledged. "Lies" by the Knickerbockers, yes, and "La La Lies" from the first Who album. "Finished With Lies" was originally a slow, hypnotic march, but after a few years of playing it that way we found our way to this more immediate, rocking arrangement.
- You might not know who Edith Head is — she was a very successful costume designer in Hollywood in the '30s through the '60s and is responsible for much of the glamour associated with that time. In her personal style she cut a striking figure as the über-librarian. This song is about someone else, who thinks they're Edith Head.
- If they ever do a remake of the remake of the "Mod Squad"...