Hey there ATG readers. My name is Oliver and I’m Zack’s older brother. I know, it’s embarrassing and given his poor hygiene I was hesitant to admit it (Zack’s Note: I actually smell like the dew on a tulip on a fresh Spring day. I haven’t done a Zack’s Note in a while. I should do more). Regardless I was given the latest They Might Be Giants Venue Songs and Podcast by Zack for my last birthday (25) as I am a lifelong fan. Note that it has taken me some time to write this review. I don’t know why it has taken this long, I mean beyond my family’s genetic procrastination gift, but what matters is that I am doing it now. By the way, that is a superb argument to use with your parents or significant others…Really, try it.
But now lets get to the music. I have been a fan of TMBG since I first heard them on a road trip when I was 12 or so. I, like so many others, was sucked in by the likes of “Particle Man” and “Istanbul” but over time grew to love the more esoteric riffs, i.e. most of John Henry or Apollo 18, and have faithfully listened to everything since. I once attended a TMBG concert only to discover upon arrival that it was a kids’ show in a theater filled to 8 year olds for the kid’s album. I was the only non-parent there and it ROCKED!
The Selected Podcasts are mixed bag. I think John and John (the duo that is TMBG) have either been going to a lot of raves or they just got a new synthesizer and have been mating with it (as exemplified in “E Eats Everything”). Constant low beats drive this track with TMBG almost nonsensical lyrics; Entertaining sure, but halfway through you wonder if anything else is going to happen. “A Boy in Love with You” harkens back to the golden days of Flood and Factory Showroom. A mix of excitement of love, or lust really, and longing for girl who looks at you like you threw up on her shoes (the ATG staff may know this feeling intimately).
The remaining tracks are hit and miss, some obviously done up to make a Podcast deadline. Definitely worth the time for a TMBG fan but if you are new to the Giants I suggest going back to Flood or Why Does the Sun Shine.
The Venue Songs are a breath of fresh TMBG air. Seriously. In the style of Apollo 18 there are 46 tracks rarely lasting more than 2 minutes. I thought hard about how to talk about this album and finally decided to only single out a few tracks to discuss. Before I get to those I feel I should mention that all the tracks rock. I was pleasantly surprised upon my first listening that I never once had the urge to skip a track or turn it off for a bit (as some people need to). The tracks were written by John and John at the venues they were playing at and that is easily heard with the obvious love TMBG put into them. If you’re fortunate enough to be from a city with its own theme, like Houston, you will no doubt find it intimate and hysterical. Even if your town doesn’t rate (DC didn’t, and that’s a bone I would care to pick with TMBG if given the chance) the tracks are well worth the listen. All of them.
Specifically, “Brooklyn” is terrific. As the home of TMBG you might expect some rockout-no-sleep-till-brooklyn-old-block kind of track. The truth is the opposite; a heartfelt, vaguely choral, tribute to that overlooked and up-and-coming borough that birthed TMBG. It almost makes me cry sometimes (but only sometimes) feeling their love for Brooklyn, a longing for home from a band always on the move. “Vancouver” is also a fantastic track. It starts off haunting like “Jesse’s Girl” (if you don’t get that reference than go away and listen to it you inbred and uncultured freak) but rocks out into a purely TMBG lyrical love song. “Love is Eternity” is the best lesson on relationships in song form ever. I am not kidding. “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” is odd and awesome. “Bloodmobile” is TMBG literally making a textbook sound like pop music. Just listen. TMBG also provides live performances of the track at the venue the song was written for.
All in all Venue Songs is a highly entertaining compendium of TMBG music and wit. John and John have put together a great package deal here and I urge you to try them on for size. Whether a dyed in the wool TMBGer or a virgin to John and John, you should find this, if nothing else, intellectually stimulating.
They Might Be Giants – Brooklyn [download or die]