User:The Silver Chauffeur
From This Might Be A Wiki
I am The Silver Chauffeur. I say it's all in your head.
Some artists besides TMBG that I like:
- Prog-rockers and experimentalists: King Crimson, Yes, Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Brian Eno
- Singer-songwriters: Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Sophie B. Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Neil Young
- Miscellaneous: Joanna Newsom, Björk, Fairport Convention, The Microphones, Andy M. Stewart
I have posted tracklists and comments for three TMBG mixes of mine over the years:
They Might Magically Be Giants (2006, 35 tracks)
God Bless You, Professor Flans (2008, 34 tracks)
Doppelgängers Of They (2015, 17 tracks)
Some thoughts about some selected TMBG songs, things that are probably too personal to go on the interpretations pages:
- It's Kickin' In, from The Spine (2004)
- Flansburgh, well, he's the practical man of TMBG. Helps with the liner notes, keeps the live shows together, philosophizes about the band's direction. In that sense, "It's Kickin' In" is a perfect Flansburgh song. It's pure function: TMBG's best party song ever. It's also gotten to be my favorite song on The Spine, which I'm definitely more than a little surprised about.
- But then, isn't The Spine the album where Flans really starts taking his Paul McCartney role to heart? There's two Flans songs on the album where Flans's new party hat really shows its colors, and Damn Good Times isn't one of them. Prevenge (first single) is the pop equivalent to "It's Kickin' In" -- it's a song whose title seems indubitably inspired by the Bush Administration and the remainder of whose content leaves you guessing as to just how Mr. F is pulling a fast one on W. It's not the only time he's found fit to leave us scratching our heads: a guy who goes through all the trouble of organizing the Future Soundtrack For America only to have his own band's contribution be a cover of an 1840 presidential campaign song for a candidate that (interpreters have pointed out) TMBG probably wouldn't even have politically supported, has got to be an either an expert self-saboteur, or a vision man.
- Why? Why go to the trouble of publicly speaking out against the powers that be, and then at the same time crafting a piece of seeming musical fluff like "It's Kickin' In"? Is this some sort of deep nihilism fostered and helped along by a more-than-happy love of '80s rock? No, They Might Be Giants are not Satanists.... You see, the thing is, sometimes Flansburgh doesn't cut it. We all know the feeling. Actually, "Prevenge" still leaves me scratching my head; you won't see me writing an essay on it here any time soon. But if there was ever an argument that the head has access to the heart (and those old dancin' feet of rock 'n roll) after all, "It's Kickin' In" could be Exhibit A.
- Here's a song where Flansburgh intentionally constructs half-formed, dream lines and gives you free rein to dance after him. "Shocked awake in the middle of the day / In a fight over shadows of the night" -- what does that mean? Sure, there are plenty of things it *could* mean, but that's not the point. There are other Flansburgh calls to dance among TMBG's repertoire, like the aforementioned "Damn Good Times" (strange how that song never got me carried away like this one has) and that ironic stadium cheer, Twisting. But "It's Kickin' In" is the one where I really lose myself. Why? It's the McCartneyesque free play of ideas, associations, interpretations even (given TMBG's history, why not?) -- dancing from one to another.
- You see, Flans really is a subversive, a true one. This is the only one of Mr. Burgh's party songs that's really just about a party, and in it, and through it, he recognizes that the thrill of enjoying yourself comes when things just don't make sense any more, and not from this, or that, or the other thing. He strives for the effect in a lot of songs; here it's purified. If the chant ends up following the song and going "Time to appreciate it / Let's hear the boyfriends say it", it's just people abandoning themselves to themselves, because everyone's going to know everyone else doesn't hear quite what they hear, and yet, it doesn't matter.
- How does Linnell fit into this equation? Well, Linnell doesn't try to force anything on you, which Flansburgh seems to in his worse moments (Q U, say). He's got to be a fair bit more popular than Flans, and really, I'm surely more entranced with him as well. But, they take that unstated TMBG goal of mental liberation and run down pretty different roads with it. Sometimes Flansburgh can sound like a pop imitator in his quest to take you somewhere; sometimes Linnell can sound pedantic when his interpretations of the TMBG Trademark Otherness (Elseness?) become overly literal (let's say, Au Contraire, or for that matter James K. Polk, which has always been a mite or ten too stuffy for me). Linnell's free even when he fails; Flansburgh on the other hand does have the ability to come off as manipulative, since his missteps can only be classed as failed experiments in pop. But in "It's Kickin' In" the failsafe is always blaring, just because Flans has already got his characters to manipulate; and so he could even soften it up, rather than kick it in, and it'd just be fine. What's the "it" that's kicking in anyway? If it's drugs, that's fine, and still fits with the song. I feel like it's more just metaphorical drugs -- the endless partygoers themselves being the ones making the metaphor, and the party itself is the drug. Or maybe "It's Kickin' In" is ultimately just a song about itself. That's an old Linnell trick, of course, and one Flansburgh is wise to use. When you're enveloped in yourself, you have to admit, how can you help but free-play along?