Talk:The Spine Surfs Alone (EP)

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First, I'm positive that The Spine Surfs Alone will be longer/different than The Spine Surfs Alone (Part 1). Why else would that be "part 1"? Secondly, I hope Canada Haunts Me is extended!! I'm so psyched... I just ordered the combo. - Doctor Masonstein

Well, so much for Renew My Subscription being on the EP... boo. BigJohn

Having listened to it, I must say, this album on the whole is very different from anything I've heard from them before. If I was to draw a parallel between Surfs and another of their albums, it's probably closest to the style of John Henry. That said, they do a lot of interesting and positive things to their sound here. It's a harder rock sound, and they put on some phony accents for a couple of the songs which is somewhat unusual for them, and at least on I'm All You Can Think About it probably detracts from the feel of the song. Fun Assassin has a lead singer which is either Flans really stretching or a new singer entirely. Skullivan has been redone entirely from the earlier demos of it that have circulated for some time, including a vocoder line and sort of a techno theme to flesh out what was otherwise a relatively unadorned sound. The first few notes of The Other Side of the World sound exactly like an early nineties album by the relatively obscure guitarist Masayoshi Takanaka, particularly on a (distinctively Japanese) album of his named The Rainbow Goblins. The similarity is very striking. Now, make no mistake about it, this is a short album. It weighs in at a slim 11 minutes, meaning that the average length of the songs, in classic TMBG style, is just over a minute and a half. All said, the only song I dislike on this album is Canada Haunts Me, which just seems to offer relatively little to the equation. I think that particular song is better left to its less contextually-peculiar spot as a partner song to a chapter in Sarah Vowell's book. It's a very good album, but be warned, it may not fit with your previously-held ideas with regards to the band. It's different, but in a healthy way. - Ed

Apparently Fun Assassin is sung by Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg.

Did anyone else get the "Pardon Our Appearance" cover? They said just to email operator dot and she'd send me the real cover. This one's still pretty funny though. - Doctor Masonstein

Yes, i did too. My scanner at home isn't working right now (...damn XP compatability). Does anyone want to scan it in and upload a pic of that cover? -- Duke33
Sure, I'll scan it in! --An orangutan

I actually liked The Spine's obscure cousin better. Even though it was shorter, it was much crazier and funnier and seemed, overall, more experimental. With The Spine they nailed pop music, but here we can see what They may become. I, for one, enjoy Linnell's work with the vocoder, and I even dig the weird accents. It all reminds me of their first album. I would like to see them continue in the direction of weirder and increasingly more experimental music. I'm pretty sure that's what they're going to be writing in ten years or so. - Doctor Masonstein.

I agree. I think The Spine is great but not perfect, whereas the EP is perfect save for the last song. --An orangutan

I downloaded this EP at the download site. I downloaded the cover art and cut and folded what I thought was suppose to be done but it looks horribly wrong. Can someone post a pic of what the front of the case is suppose to look like. Sorry, I am just having a dumb moment. - Y2J2K

The EP is pretty different, I'll admit it. I'm not exactly a big fan of it, but it's nice to hear TMBG experimenting on disc again. Other than that, I can say I'm extremely irritated by the hidden Flash music video for I'm All You Can Think About (which automatically starts playing when you insert the Spine Surfs Alone EP into your computer's disc drive). Not only is it lacking in professionalism AND quality (where are The Brothers Chaps when you need them?), but it can't be closed out without either killing it in the Task Manager or hitting Alt+F4 as it automatically fullscreens itself. - TheNintenGenius

I don't have the EP myself, so I can't check if it works or not, but normally, you should be able to disable the autoplay option (in this case the flash movie) by holding 'shift' while your disc drive is loading the disc.
That method does work, but it's somewhat beside the point. Even if you do want to watch the Flash video (which I honestly don't recommend), it's impossible to exit out of without using the methods I mentioned above. If you're going to have a Flash music video that you can't exit from via normal means (or isn't programmed to automatically close itself when finished), you shouldn't program it to automatically fullscreen itself and render many of your other escape options useless. - TheNintenGenius

Does anyone know if the real CD case os the full deal (i.e. something that would comfortably fit alongside the other TMBG EPs like Indestructible Object or Back To Skull), or just a flat sleeve or some printed liner notes quickly shoved into a blank case? I'm an anal completist who cares about what his CD collection looks like when lined up chronologically, and whether or not I buy the physical copy hinges on minor details like that. - HappyBob

John Flansburgh, from msn: "By doing something like the EP, "The Spine Surfs Alone" EP, is really interesting because it's a really unreasonable EP--it might as well be called "Our Halloween Record." It's all these ugly, over-the-top creepy songs. I have no idea how a proper rock critic would respond to it--I would imagine they'd hate it because it's really unimportant and in some ways kind of silly. It's exciting to have an outlet that's so appropriate." Right on. --An orangutan

The flash video was composed by John Linnell, as he says in this interview. Apparently he needs lots of stuff to do while on the road to keep him entertained....composing a new song for every venue wasn't enough. I think it's funny, and since the EP is for experimental music, it might as well be for experimental artwork too.

I shall mention that I did get a copy of the actual liner notes for The Spine Surfs Alone in the mail a while ago. (Which includes very brief liner notes and the tray liner, or whatever it's called.) Makes it look snazzy and professional, which is something I usually don't care about much, but let's face it, the Pardon Our Appearance cover, while cute, was sorely lacking. - TheNintenGenius

I'm probably overanalyzing this, but here goes.

First, I'm a Progressive fan. When I first put the CD in I was surprised at how short it was, but after listening to it I was convinced that this was actually a rock opera. I listened through a couple times trying to see how each song fit together, but it seemed wrong. Then I listened to it right after the Spine and I decideded that they were the same story. I have a very rough interpretation of the story, which is that it is the story of the Experimental Film, which is the Spine. Everything between Spine and It's Kickin' In describes the narrator's movie, which is becoming weirder and weirder. Spines is the radical refinement of the movie in his head. Instead of applause, he gets Au Contraire, where he suggests several ideas but everyone hates them. He's left with a few actors, namely his girlfriend (probably the movie's main character) but Broke in Two describes their breakup. Stalk of Wheat is him in denial, as he tries to find new actors. I Can't Hide From My Mind desribes his acceptance. Then The Spine Surfs Alone is the song about his decision to go forward- in effect he is the Spine and he's going at it alone. Now Is Strange is hard for me to figure out, but my best guess is that he is trying to play every roll in his film, which he realizes is impossible. I'm All You Can Think About is him remembering his girfriend, he is the one who can only think of her and it's ruining the film and hurting the morale of the few actors he has (he can only say her name, etc). Fun Assassin is, as I see it, the deadline for his film. As I see it, the film is important because it is for something, perhaps admission to a film school or a filmmaker's one chance at fame. Skullivan is the fun assassin, who carries an air of brevity while holding the singer's fate in his hands. The video store line supports this. If you follow the first theory (that the character is applying to a film school) Skullivan is the admissions director, who the narrator is pleading with for more time. The second theory (where the narrator is an aspiring filmmaker) would point to Skullivan being a venture capitalist who invested in the film and wants to know why it hasn't made his face implode. It's also important to note that the Skull rests on the spine, controlling it, but requiring it. The Other Side Of The World is the narrator's downfall. He feels exiled, to such an extent that he feels he is on the other side of the world. If he is a college student, it's probably a public college, if he is the filmmaker, he's been blacklisted by everyone in charge (Hollywood's top producers, etc). Canada haunts me is a stretch. For the student, Vancouver is home to the prestigious Vancouver Film School. For the filmmaker, I really can't make a connection. The other possibility is that the song is what the narrator does now, a low budget made for TV history movie, and the horses are somehow all that's left of the original Experimental Film.


Does anyone else get the strong feeling that the first four or five tracks on this were all supposed to be on The Spine, but were hived off for this EP out of necessity to make the full-length album itself more commercial? Possibly even at Restless's request?

It certainly goes some way to explaining the shorter-than-usual length of the album, the fact the five full-length songs on Surfs Alone all have either unusual vocal inflections (in the case of Fun Assassin, no TMBG vocals at all) or general uncommercial freakiness of a sort not present on any of the as-released album, the fact the title track was blatantly supposed to be on the proper LP (and offered online as a promo for such), and that I'm All You Can Think About is clearly one of Linnell's pet favourites from the entire sessions (hence its Flash promo).

Likewise, Renew My Subscription isn't the most potentially-chart-bothering cut from the sessions, and may well have been initially lined up as part of the LP. Had iTunes not requested an extra track from Idlewild, that would probably have been on this EP I reckon.

It seems that they were specifically attempting to assemble a bona fide hit pop album from the completed sessions, where all the songs could be easily identified as having the 'TMBG identity', to perhaps aid them establish a commercial presence again. A conscious effort to chase the Boss Of Me crowd, and possibly the last time they'll bother? Lots of ruthless culling seems to have gone on at the track-sequencing stage, whatever the answer.

Further speculation - may the songs The Spine Surfs Alone, Spine, and Spines may have originally been conceived as a continuous suite or a medley a la Fingertips? Perhaps there were supposed to be a few more spine miniatures as part of it, but it was abandoned either through lack of confidence in the idea or an overabundance of material? The only clues seem to lie in the LP's title suggesting more of a concept album than it ended up christening, and the "(Part 1)" mysteriously disappearing from the Surf's Alone song from demo to release.

Just some things I've been wondering about. I'm not one for song meanings or interpretations or anything, but talking about creative decisions like this absolutely fascinates me. ~ SirDarrell


This is might be my new favorite release from TMBG, It has the Dark feeling from John Henry, and the perfect mixture of experimental, like they're first album, and they're fuller band sound. This is the perfect hybrid of the Giants sound. Every track, except for the last, Is perfect, in my opinion that is. - Skeletomfilms

New stock coming to[edit]

So basically I noticed this has been out of stock forever on the merch site but the link is still there. I got curious. I sent an email. This was the reply: Thank you for your interest. It's funny you should ask, because TMBG promised us more stock just last week. I wonder what else they'll be putting back up... Undercover for the Man EP? --Altermanncam 00:09, 11 May 2013 (EDT)

If anyone is interested, it is back in stock on the merchdirect page. --Altermanncam 23:51, 13 May 2013 (EDT)

The Spine Surfs Alone Part 2[edit]

When I uploaded my copy of "The Spine Surfs Alone (EP)" to my computer, the track "The Other Side Of The World" was listed as "The Spine Surfs Alone (Part 2)". I have 2 questions about it. 1: Has this happened to anyone else, and 2: Would it be worth putting in the trivia section about the song and/or the EP? I ordered the EP sometime in the summer of 2015, if that makes a difference to any of this. -Bouncer15111

It's mentioned here, but iTunes (and most other media programs) fetch from CDDB databases like Gracenote, freedb, or MusicBrainz that accept some amount of user submissions on metadata so it's likely that a fan tagged the song like that and submitted it (and I would guess it was in reference to The Spine Surfs Alone (Part 1)). That little tidbit has been on the page for the song before, but it was removed as CDDB entries are not necessarily approved by TMBG and the band has never indicated this. ~ april 16:03, 29 April 2016 (EDT)