Flood – They Might Be Giants


They Might Be Giants



For all of the early indie/alternative bands to come out of the late 1980’s / early 1990’s, there is none more dichotomous as They Might Be Giants.  Now, well, I realize that seems like an aggressively pseudo-intellectual statement, one that doesn’t seem applicable, but hear me out.  Bands like Radiohead, Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, even Sonic Youth, while brilliant and very enjoyable, normally have straightforward attitudes pertaining to their music.  Tell me that the music to “Creep” doesn’t fit the lyrics perfectly, or that “Wave of Mutilation” would’ve been better if they had used an accordion in the song.

I am going somewhere with this, trust me.

They Might Be Giants, to allude to Goethe, possesses two souls growing in one breast.  The Johns Flansburgh and Linnell have created a band in which darkness and lightheartedness work together with equanimity.  This is a band with songs that have been featured on the childrens’ shows Tiny Toon Adventures, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.  Here is a band that have released albums about the alphabet and science.  This is a band that dares to ask the question “Where do they make balloons?”  And yet, this band has also contributed the angst-ridden theme song to Malcolm in the Middle, has sung about the religious experience of a statue, and has the lyric “Everybody dies, frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful.”

What I’m getting at is this: They Might Be Giants sheds light on a very human experience — the ability to be awfully silly and yet depressed and alienated at the same time.  Their third studio album, Flood, shows this to extreme degrees.  Very often, the two entities form a yin and yang existence in the same song.

Look at them, they just reek of philosophical duality.

The first full song on the album, the second track “Birdhouse in Your Soul” (which could be their most famous song), really is quite catchy and upbeat.  Complete with the two Johns singing different chorus lines over each other and a high-pitched keyboard part, “Birdhouse” isn’t quite a song that you’d imagine to have darker undertones.  Yet, look at the lyrics: “Really, I’m not actually your friend, but I am,” “My story’s infinite,” and the allusion of “after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.” Imagine singing that while playing an accordion; that, my friends, is lyrical dissonance.

But the binaries don’t stop there on Flood.  “Your Racist Friend” is a song about not being able to tolerate an intolerant person (see what I did there?).  “Someone Keeps Moving My Chair” conjoins humor and heinousness together, as it lists off cruel things (writing on the back of someone’s head all the way to disgracing a site of a death), and yet the only thing that annoys the character is that his chair has been moved.  If all of this hasn’t been enough to persuade you, they have their aptly titled song “Dead,” with a silly metaphor of a bag of groceries standing in for the idea of reincarnation, and it is weighted with the regretfulness of life: “Now it’s over, I’m dead, and I haven’t done anything that I want / or I’m still alive, and there’s nothing I want to do.”

According to my trusted research website, Wikipedia, the album cover is a picture taken from the Ohio River flood of 1937, a disaster which left 385 people dead and left damage in four states.  Without knowing this, the cover appears innocent enough, with a man rowing a boat made out of washbasins in serene water — a nice fit for such a quirky band.  However, as with everything about They Might Be Giants, and this album in particular, there is always that existential darkness bubbling under the surface, threatening to cause a catastrophic flood.


3 Responses to “Flood – They Might Be Giants”

  1. Nicholas Says:

    More like They Might Be Butts!

  2. Nicholas Says:


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