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Thursday, July 06, 2006

They Might Be Giants #38

Innocence Mission makes me feel healed: Birds of my Neighborhood and Befriended. It’s safe and caring. Morrissey and The Smiths make me feel healed too, though the darkness is more addressed—cathartic as in going through the pain to get to the other side. With Innocence Mission, the pain is off-stage. And the lyrics are beautiful.

I love Bach for St Matthew’s Passion and more. David Bowie will always have a special place in my heart, and Hunky Dory might be my favorite album of all time. The music of The Mountain Goats is raw, stark. “Golden Boy Peanuts” may be the most moving song I’ve ever heard. But I’ve only just started listening to the Mountain Goats.

They Might Be Giants is my favorite band because of their creativity, which is pure genius. No one else is so consistently funny, and funny in the best way, a humor that helps me see life anew and stimulates me as validly as anything serious. I feel I can live. Their lyrics are often dark, often about death, but the humor makes me feel I can face it. The two Johns are like friends to me, and we can talk about these things.

You’re older than you’ve ever been
and now you’re even older,
and now you’re even older,
and now you’re even older.
You’re older than you’ve ever been,
and now you’re even older.
And now you’re older still.
Time is marching on.
And time is still marching on.

TMBG risks obnoxiousness with their exuberance. They take risks constantly and usually succeed. Infinitely musically skilled, they seem to be able to do anything they please, make music in any genre--any instrument, including the most obscure.

Playful describes them well. There’s not a big difference between their music for kids and their music for adults. They’re able to access and inhabit the minds of not only their current 40-something selves, but all previous selves also. That’s how I feel too, so we have that in common.

As a teenager I listened to Flood and Apollo 18 a lot, and they became part of my inner soundtrack. Lincoln was another favorite that stayed with me. “Ana Ng” taught me about love, longing, and made me consider ideas of fate: do we all have a soulmate somewhere, and is it possible that mine is on the other side of the world? “Mammal” showed me that a pop song could be about science and informed me about my own biology. My friend Amanda and I sang it repeatedly in the halls of our high school, annoying our other friends. “The Statue Got Me High” reinforced my feeling that art can have a huge impact on a person and pleased me with its transgressive drug analogy. “We Want a Rock” to this day delights me with its gentle kindness and insight concerning simple human desires.

Throw the crib door wide--
let the people crawl inside.
Someone in this town
is trying to burn the playhouse down.
They want to stop the ones who want
a rock to wind a string around.
But everybody wants a rock
to wind a piece of string around.

These songs are classics for me, and hearing them could give anyone insight to the workings of my mind because my mind’s ways of being are somewhat founded on the odd logic of these tunes.

Recently I got They Might Be Giants and Mink Car from the library. I’m currently in love with “My Man,” which brilliantly examines the strange phenomenon of finding oneself paralyzed: the spinal chord is compared to a trans-Atlantic cable, the brain to headquarters: the body isn’t following orders. Its light-heartedness belies the gravity of the subject, which happens often in their music, but not in a creepy way (creepy would be like The Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma”)--more straightforward than that, not trying to shock anyone. I trust them entirely. And the strangest line will suddenly feel very moving, such as “for instance an anchor or mooring”--suddenly at this line, I could cry--you’ll have to hear it.

My best friend gave me Miscellaneous T. I’m taken with “Boat of Car” which is one of the strangest things I have ever heard, as well as “When it Rains, it Snows.” They’re literate, clever, more literate than anyone.

I took my boat for a car.
I took that car for a ride.

There’s a tape I found at a dollar store years ago and listened to over and over again in my truck. “In the Nightgown of the Sullen Moon” was my favorite song for a year and comforted me as I drove the back roads to and from teaching community college in Bishop.

Drug trip--it's not a drug trip
so you feel a bit insulted.
Space walk--it's like a space walk
with the corresponding weight loss
And you're nothing but air,
with your hand in the air
and your shoelaces tied
up together with care.
There's a feeling of boredom,
of the big whoredom
following dressing up.

My best friend recently gave me John Henry, but I haven’t listened to all of it yet, and we got a best-of anthology Dial-a-Song from the library to fill in some gaps.

As an adult, I’m less wowed by clever lyrics because I know lots of bands can do that. I’m now more into the music of it, the harmony and syncopations, the flawlessness of their execution. Or the way the music and lyrics come together. I prefer my lyrics to resist the intelligence, like in “Man, it’s so Loud in Here” where I feel strong emotions, but the text resists a simple reading—I like when I’m in tears but I’m not sure why—or an odd combination of feelings as in “Hovering Sombrero.”

Don't be burdened by regrets
or make your failures an obsession,
or become embittered or possessed
by ruined hopes. Remember when
you take yourself for granted, feel
rejected and unwanted: no,
you're never just a hat,
you're never only just a hat, you know.

Their songs are rich experiences, and they’re prolific, so the body of work is huge. Please pardon me as I compare them to Wallace Stevens. Something good is being done to you in a level of consciousness deeper than everyday, but listen to them enough, and this will become everyday for you, and your life will be vivified. You can spend a lifetime with these remarkable musicians, and I will.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Danny said...

i agree SOOOOO much with this... being 14 and hearing 'the guitar' really did change my life.

May 05, 2009 10:01 AM  

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