Mailing List Archive/2002-05-30

From This Might Be A Wiki


Flansburgh here. Happy to report our Boston Hatch Shell show with Patti Smith was a huge success. A beautiful day. A tremendous crowd. Thanks to all the thousands of folks who came out.

"TO THE BUBBLECRAFT" FREE MP3 AVAILABLE TO YOU RIGHT NOW! Go to to get our latest free MP3 of "To The Bubblecraft." If you know someone who would also like free MP3s, tell them to sign up for this list!

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS CELEBRATE 20 YEARS OF ROCKIN' WITH A FREE SHOW IN CENTRAL PARK AUGUST 15 Mark your calendars because TMBG is doing another big, big free show at Central Park's Summerstage. Returning to the site of our very first show in 1982, we are happy to mark the occasion with a FULL LENGTH free show on the evening of Thursday August 15. Opening are the Moldy Peaches, and a special preview of songs from the cast of People Are Wrong! (the rock opera Flansburgh is producing at Joe's Pub in September.)


The brand new album No! is already garnering the rave reviews. This one caught our attention- written by someone who beta-tested it on kids:, or see below. At the ponderously long link below you can pre-order your very own copy of No! from Amazon. The quality of their fulfillment is legendary.

We will be "bundling" No! into a special t-shirt offer if you can wait a couple of weeks, or, if you feel you must first check out some of the impressive enhanced features of this brand new disc, or just want to hear some songs in advance, go to There is also an interview and feature about No! in this month's Improper Bostonian (on newstands now).

Shows that are already announced are Nashville, Atlanta, Washington DC, Denver, Portland OR, Seattle, Anaheim, and two big shows in Los Angeles (including a special kids' show!). See below for dates, and look out for more dates to come!

TMBG DOCUMENTARY FILM "GIGANTIC" ALSO GETTING RAVES! Film Threat - Hollywood's Indie Voice Check out this interesting review. "Gigantic" continues to get added to more and more festivals. I will be flying out to the first Seattle showing, as well as the Vegas premiere. See new listings below in our schedule or go to for the latest updates. Did I mention Los Angeles? Or Boston? No, I did not, but I might later...


6/6 "GIGANTIC" in SEATTLE w/ Flansburgh. Seattle International Film Festival 9:30 PM Broadway Performance Hall 1625 Broadway, Seattle. Tickets at

6/9 & 6/11 "GIGANTIC" in LAS VEGAS w/ Flansburgh. Cinevegas Film Festival 6:30 PM Brenden Theaters at Palms Casino Resort 4321 West Flamingo Road, Las Vegas. Tickets at

6/11 NO! RELEASED! NEW YORK CITY IN-STORE 5pm Uptown Tower Records NYC

6/14 NEW HAVEN, CT IN-STORE Cutlers' ' probably, just probably 7pm

6/14 "GIGANTIC" in ORLANDO Florida Film Festival 7:15 PM Colonial Promenade 4672 East Colonial Drive, Orlando. Tickets at

6/15 "GIGANTIC" in MAITLAND FL Midnight Florida Film Festival Enzian Theater 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland. Tickets at

6/16 "GIGANTIC" in PROVINCETOWN 2:45 PM Provincetown Film Festival The Crown and Anchor 247 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA. Info at

6/19 CAMBRIDGE, MA IN-STORE Borders 7pm 6/20 PROVIDENCE, RI IN-STORE Borders 7pm 6/27 NASHVILLE, TN Riverfront Park Dancing In The District 6/28 ATLANTA, GA Centennial Olympic Park On The Bricks 6/29 WASHINGTON DC Coca-Cola's DC Sessions 7/12 DENVER, CO Lo-Do Festival 7/13 PARK CITY, UT Harry O's 7/14 BOISE, ID Big Easy Concert House 7/16 SAN FRAN., CA The Fillmore 7/17 SAN FRAN., CA The Fillmore 7/19 PORTLAND, OR Crystal Ballroom 7/20 SEATTLE, WA Paramount Theater 7/21 SEATTLE, WA EMP Kids' Concert Series 7/22 TBA 7/23 TBA 7/24 TBA 7/25 SAN DIEGO, CA 4th and B 7/26 LOS ANGELES, CA John Anson Ford Theater 7/27 ANAHEIM, CA House of Blues 7/28 LOS ANGELES, CA Special Kids Show! Storyopolis 7/29 SCOTTSDALE, AZ Cajun House

Can They Might Be Giants Save Children's Music? A Review by Kim Lumpkin 5/24/2002

When I was about six or seven, my parents got me an amazing children's record; it was a collection of about 20 or more really short songs sung by what I recall as sounding like Irish folk singers and covering a range of themes from making friends to building sandcastles. One song that is as clear in my memory today as it was then is a heartfelt lament about losing a balloon:

I lost my balloon I lost my balloon It was round, bright, and red Shaped about like my head Now I think it is dead For it's up near the moon. And that was it. Most of the songs on the album were that short and catchy, and it quickly became a favorite of both mine and my family's. I also grew up during the golden era of kids shows (H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, The Banana Splits) with bubblegum pop theme songs to rival anything on the radio. Since then, however, the state of music made for kids has become quite sad indeed. While I had Sesame Street's 'I Love Trash' and The Electric Company's wonderful 'Silent E' (by Tom Lehrer no less), what do kids today have? The kind of banal, sugary Barney ditties that are enough to send adults screaming from the room. And for slightly older kids? Not much at all. Luckily, They Might Be Giants decided to do something about it.

One thing anyone who has listened to They Might Be Giants for any length of time knows is that kids take to their music like ducks to water. It's easy to say that this is because of the deceptively simple melodies, but kids also connect to the humor in the songs. When Billy Joel came out with Glass Houses that he didn't have to prove he could rock out, but that's no reason why he shouldn't have if he wanted to. Likewise, there's no reason why They Might Be Giants can't apply their uniquely childlike (not to be mistaken for childish) sensibilities to an album designed specifically for the kiddies, including fun, smooth-running flash animation for each song, much of it interactive, provided by the talented website designers at the Chopping Block. To assist me in my evaluation of the album, I enlisted the aid of two young friends, Coryn Nimblett, 10, and Leigh Nimblett, 8, both of whom give the album 5 stars.

No! begins with the inviting folk guitar sound of 'Fibber Island,' about a place where 'we strum rubber guitars/our friends live on Mars/and we sew buttons on our cars.' Deception and fakery have always been popular themes for TMBG, and while it might seem rather subversive to tell kids 'start fibbing in your mind/and see what you can find,' it's obviously meant in the sense of using one's imagination. This is followed by the rousing intro of '4 of 2,' a song that just cries out to be written as a picture book. Featuring the catchiest accordion riff since 'Particle Man,' '4 of 2' tells the tale of what has to be the most optimistic guy in the world, and his fate elicited laughs from Coryn.

'Robot Parade' proves that electronic blips and bloops can be just as soothing as folksy guitar strumming, even with the slightly scary effect of Flansburgh's vocoder-altered voice singing the praises of a time when robots will do children's bidding. Next, junior headbangers will get a kick out of the title track, and Coryn, Leigh, and I enjoyed the challenge of changing all of the NO blocks to YES blocks, then the YES blocks to flowers before the song ends (we still haven't gotten the last two!).

'Where Do They Make Balloons' is the first of three tracks on the album to feature a guest vocalist (the most ever on a TMBG album). Written and performed by TMBG bassist Danny Weinkauf, it features some delightfully subtle social commentary ('New York has tall buildings/ New Jersey has its malls'), but the highlight of the song is how it breathes fresh life into the breezy early '70s pop-lite sound'think the Fifth Dimension meets the Cowsills, only more clever. Then the cheerfully warm delivery of another guest vocalist, Robin Goldwasser, along with authentically cheesy early '60s style kids show instrumentation manages to make a potentially grating remake of a kids' safety PSA tune, 'In the Middle,' enjoyable.

Consisting mainly of repetition of such words as 'hippo' and 'mop,' the next track, 'Violin,' is easily the strangest song on the album, but also one that is nearly impossible not to sing along to, particularly the random lesson in fractions featuring 'George Washington's Head' (the animation adds the other residents of Mount Rushmore as well). And from its dramatic spoken intro to its funky beat and intriguing subject matter, 'John Lee Supertaster' is straight out of Schoolhouse Rock, telling the story of TMBG friend and real life supertaster John Lee as if he were a true superhero.

Coryn's favorite song on the album, 'The Edison Museum,' also features some of the best animation, depicting Edison's famous abode as a haunted house with a very large ghost of Edison looming overhead. Clicking on the windows reveals other ghosts, each with a different fact about Edison's life and achievements that loosely match the lyrics of the song, sung enthusiastically by TMBG friend Nick Hill. And remember songs like 'There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly' and 'The Green Grass Grew All Around' that kept adding to the chorus and you had to remember the sequence as it kept getting longer? TMBG have added to this long-neglected genre with the suspenseful 'The House at the Top of the Tree,' which Leigh reports as her favorite. The animation is also the most fun, requiring the listener to feed chips to a giant mouse so that it will not eat the tree the house is sitting in. This one got the most repeat playings from my two assistants.

'Clap Your Hands' virtually commands kids to get up and dance with its bouncy keyboard rhythm, shouted lyrics, and sound effects. The dancing birds in the animation were also a favorite of my young critics. 'I Am Not Your Broom' was at one time a concert highlight a short 'Oh, Susannahlike tune usually thrown in the middle of the 'Spy' improve but has now found a proper home on the kids album. It also features the only animated depiction of a John on the album (unless they add more for the final release). Love how he raises his eyebrow at the rebel cleaning device. This is followed by 'Wake-Up Call,' a funky pseudo-instrumental (there are 'bo-bos sung throughout). Coryn and Leigh both enjoyed the roosters and hens that move to the music and the spinning clocks that can be changed by rolling the mouse pointer over them.

'Grocery Bag' may be little more than a simple listing of grocery items that makes a good vocabulary builder for kids who've never heard of things like org anic grains or salsa. Speaking of vocabulary building, 'Lazy Head and Sleepy Bones' is a great introduction to synonyms, as the two title characters perpetually disagree over how to say the same thing. I made a wonderful discovery while listening to this song with Leigh as each time 'Lazy Head' said something she would try to guess what 'Sleepy Bones' would say. Anything that encourages kids to use their minds to predict, and have fun doing it, is something any parent or teacher will find invaluable. Incidentally, the music (featuring an appropriately languid sliding guitar) and gentle harmony on this song are simply gorgeous.

'Bed, Bed, Bed,' continues the sleepy theme, although the song itself is more rousing and energetic than rest-inducing. Linnell continues to crib from the Beatles with an intro reminiscent of 'Good Day Sunshine' and skillful use of cacophony that sounds very much like the end of 'A Day in the Life.' And finally, 'Sleepwalkers' takes the potentially creepy vision of sleepwalking children and makes it downright cute. With its bubbly keyboard line and the rousing guitar comes crashing in at key moments, it is musically sophisticated enough to appeal to the most demanding TMBG fans and in fact has been a concert favorite for some time now.

In fact, the whole album is as musically stirring and creative as anything TMBG have ever done, and that's saying a lot. Taking inspiration from the best kids' music, they have crafted something that any adult who remembers the music of their own childhood can fondly enjoy. TMBG know that making a good kids album doesn't mean talking down to kids, nor does it mean throwing in things that go over kids' heads just so their parents will listen to it as well; there isn't a cynical or condescending note in No!, just lots of good music.

I asked Coryn and Leigh what they thought were the ideal ages to listen to the CD, and they both agreed ages 5-10, which is exactly what I would have said. I was actually considering giving the disc 4 1/2 stars, but seeing how much they enjoyed it pushed it over the top. Perhaps the highest praise of all is that they are eagerly awaiting their own copy which I promised them for helping me with this review (along with my sincere thanks).

So can They Might Be Giants save the sorry state of kids music today? Sadly, even artists as in-tune with children's sensibilities as they would be hard-pressed to do so single-handedly. Still, No! is a welcome bit of relief for parents who are looking for something, anything, besides the latest Raffi CD for their young kids to listen to. Hopefully they will become hooked on good music for life; we never forget the music we loved when we were kids. Which reminds me, if anyone knows the name of the album I mentioned at the beginning of the review and where I can find a copy, be the first to let me know and I will personally buy you a copy of No! (and yes, I'm serious). But even if you don't, go ahead and get a copy anyway for any kids in your life, and don't be surprised if you find yourself buying your own copy.