Interpretations:XTC Vs. Adam Ant
I'm not sure if this is news to anyone, but I think I know what the line about Bow Wow Wow is about. I was flipping through a book on rock bands and found Bow Wow Wow. It turns out that three of the four members are actually FROM Adam and the Ants! Guess who the other member is? The singer, of course!
So if the singer (whose name is Annabella Lwin, by the way), who obviously would have a bias towards Adam Ant, would not be able to decide which band was better, this means that XTC is really good.
(I have a couple of XTC's albums, and they have a similar pop sound to They Might Be Giants. TMBG evidently likes them as well. They covered "25 O'Clock" for the XTC Tribute Album.)
I thought that the Bow Wow Wow line was refering to their most well known song, "I Want Candy". As in, she certainly doesn't have any trouble deciding what she wants there... -TDK
It also sounds like the XTC tune "your dictionary"-Dr Worm 181
Being a huge XTC fan, I obviously was interested in this song. XTC and TMBG have had connections. As mentioned above, TMBG covered "25 O'Clock" by The Dukes of Stratosphere (XTC's psychadelic alter-ego) on A Testimonial Dinner (a tribute album to XTC, as said above). Also, Andy Partridge (basically the lead singer for XTC) submitted two songs to TMBG's project (I forget what the project was called): "Prince of Orange" and "My Brown Guitar" (maybe known as "Some Lovely"). I believe only "My Brown Guitar" was used, and it also appeared on XTC's most recent album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2).
Here's an unusual take on this song. XTC and Adam Ant are both competing for there place in rock history. The two bands represent (at least in my theory) two different entities vying for the attention of the singer, represented by the concept of rock...bear with me here. XTC is the smarter, more reliable company/product/person/method, whereas Adam Ant is the more conciously attractive and more instantly gratifying thing (XTC the band have a smart and loyal fanbase, whereas Adam Ant was a one-hit wonder). XTC is "beatle-based pop", and the singer DOES love the beatles...but then again, Adam Ant is a "New Romantic". Time is passing, and the singer realizes he must choose only one...but he can't tell you why its so hard to choose. Just when he's about to realize XTC is superior to Adam Ant, Ant "flies up the charts" with a new hit, and it seems exciting again. Frustrated, the singer asks Bow Wow Wow who would be a better choice. Bow Wow Wow, realizing the superiority of XTC but knowing her duty of friendship to Adam Ant, can't help him. Time marches on...and still, the struggle between style vs. substance continues...Ok, it's probably about the actual bands. - Stiddy
Back in the early/mid 90's TMBG was quite possibly the most popular 'alternative' band in St. Louis. The 'alternative' radio station in town started doing a 'Battle of the Bands' popularity contest each year. They would devise a tournament bracket similar to that used in the NCAA basketball tournament, with 64 teams matched up one against another, and have listeners call in to vote on the winner in each matchup. The winner of each pairing would advance to the next round. I believe TMBG won the tournament two years in a row. I always assumed that this song was inspired by that tournament, and may have even been an actual pairing in the tournament. - Professa G
Perhaps I'm being picky - I'm not, but I say this to avoid sounding arrogant - but Adam Ant wasn't really 'new romantic'. The height of his fame predated the New Romantic wave by a few months, and even though he coexisted with New Romantic he was an oddball parallel being, along the lines of Toyah, Gary Numan, Kate Bush etc. Didn't use synthesisers, either. Wasn't a one-hit wonder; he was popular as Adam and the Ants and, later, much less so as the solo Adam Ant. In terms of They Might be Giants' song, it's clearly a whimsical clash between two unlikely competitors sketched with just enough detail to be amusing. As I recall, Adam Ant's original backing band was nicked by Malcolm McLaren to form the backing band for Annabella Lwin of what would become Bow Wow Wow; he got a new band, the Ants, and thrashed Bow Wow Wow in the charts. - Ashley Pomeroy
- Does "a few months" really rule him out? I would rather say that Adam Ant, Gary Numan, etc., were the founders of New Romantic. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 02:57, 2 April 2020 (EDT)
While listening to this song and reading these interpretations this thought arises. The song may be about TMBG themselves. Consider the following.
XTC - Arty, intelligent pop music with a dedicated fan base
Adam (and the) Ants - Throw-away pop music with no real depth that shows up on VH-1's "One Hit Wonders Weekend"
They Might Be Giants - A band who can be artsy and intelligent, and at the same time can write pop songs for kids with no real depth. And of course have a dedicated fan base, yet to the larger populace are at best 2 hit wonders.
However, there is nothing wrong with either of these views, after all, "There is no right or wrong"
(And as I always say - All modern music is pop music) - Nrrd
I love XTC, but I wouldn't call call Adam Ant a one-hit wonder, and certainly not throw-away pop music. He had a lot of really awesome songs, especially his early stuff as Adam and the Ants (although I will admit that one of his later albums, the totally cheesy "Vive La Rock", is a guilty pleasure). --Martorano
I wouldn't call Vive le Rock cheesy, it's far too insane for that, all that whoopin' and hollerin'. Plus, releasing a rock'n'roll album in 1984/85 amid all the 80's electronic music has got to take guts. I remember reading an interview with TMBG where they were asked about this song and they admitted that although they were big XTC fans they barely knew any adam ant. So chances are, they're gonna sell him a little short. ah, here it is:
C = Chris Beyond (Sneaky Interviewer) B = Brian Doherty (Drummer) G = Graham (Bass Player)
C: Awwwww. See, I try to start a fight and all I get is love. What is your favorite Adam Ant song and why? B: You know what, I don't know a lot of Adam Ant songs so, uh, what were some of his songs? I guess "Ant Music" is my favorite. John Flansburgh has always introduced the song by saying that it's actually true that XTC and Adam Ant had a runoff at a radio station during an interview or something. Is that true? (By the way there is a song on their new album called "XTC VS. ADAM ANT.") G: I've never heard that story before John Flansburgh told it. So I don't know if that's a rumor or what. B: I don't even like Adam Ant. C: Oooooh, my girlfriend will not be happy. Ok, then next question...ok...
- I don't think the opinions of the drummer and bass player are really relevant to the question. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 02:57, 2 April 2020 (EDT)
Although I know this has already been proven that it is a song about the two bands, I can't help but sometimes interpret it as "ecstasy vs. adamant", a fight between two different emotions. But this is just me being silly :P
Not an interpretation in the strict sense, but I somehow find it really funny how Flans over-enunciates the bands' names ("Ex-Tee-Cee versus Adam-Ant") to the point where the puns in both names don't really work anymore. I wonder whether that was done on purpose or not... --Freakiosis (talk) 19:32, 15 January 2014 (EST)
- One could always ask Flansy (or Operator Crash) on Tumblr (tmbgareok.tumblr.com), but based on some past responses, he might not remember! -- CJSF (talk) 08:29, 16 January 2014 (EST)
It's right there in the second line: "Content vs. Form." This is the essence of the ENTIRE ALBUM, guys! Disturbing psychological portayals of divided identity and loyalty juxtaposed with super-naive pop. There is no right or wrong.
Classic Flans turning a joke into a song...and the humour not standing up to repeat listens. How this got the nod over Certain People I Could Name - God knows. (Mr Tuck)
One interesting thing I have noted is that both names of the contestants in this battle are puns, "ecstasy" and "adamant". But the staccato-y way Flans sings it, (X - T - C versus Adam - Ant) both puns get kind of lost. Don't know if that was intentional. Also, this song could be interpreted as being about ecstasy vs. adamancy in music, but maybe that's too big of a stretch.
Parody of British indie music journalism
As someone who used to follow the NME and Melody Maker (music magazines), this song feels like a parody of the British music press. They are (or were) notorious for the way they would build up acts and then tear them down, mash vaguely-related bands into spurious "movements", and invent rivalries between bands and musicians (perhaps most famously Blur vs Oasis).
I think if TMBG had released "XTC Vs. Adam Ant" as a single in the UK, it could have done pretty well in the indie charts. Certainly better than "S-E-X-X-Y", which was just a bad choice of song.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 02:57, 2 April 2020 (EDT)
I think it’s just a song trying to compare 2 very different things like apples and oranges or (if you’ll excuse the xtc pun) oranges and lemons.