“You have to listen to this song,” my friend said. There were six or seven of us crowded into her parents’ living room, in my small midwestern town, before the day I accidentally spilled Mountain Dew onto their brand-new carpet, before the only boy in the group asked me to prom, before the rest of the group convinced him to try an experiment in which he would see how long he could go without speaking to me before I got angry with him; before I accidentally spilled sparkling white grape juice on my friend’s faux-fur coat and effectively ended my tenure in that particular living room. (The grape juice moment is caught, somewhere, on videotape.)
“You have to listen to this song. There are secret lyrics.”
We were fourteen years old and proud of ourselves for understanding the reference. I think we had just learned about Pavlov in psychology.
I’m being driven across the country from the small midwestern town to the university I attend, three states away, after Thanksgiving break. The driver is a friend of mine whose family lives in a city en route; I am delivered to his home and he delivers me the rest of the way as if I were a parcel on the Pony Express. It’s very late. He puts in a cd: Mink Car. For the first time I hear the song “Older,” which is probably the only way to really hear this song: after midnight, in a car where you haven’t spoken to the other passenger for hours, in hour ten of a fourteen-hour haul. Pitch black outside. Nothing but the two voices:
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.
When the CD finishes my friend is too tired to replace it, so we listen to Mink Car twice that night. It also contains the song “(She Thinks She’s) Edith Head,” which I listen to very intently because the lyrics hit a little too close to home (“the accent in her speech/she didn’t have growing up,” etc.).
I’m nineteen years old and, surprisingly, know who Edith Head is, though it’s a bit complicated to explain how I know (it has to do with a Pride and Prejudice-related image search which led to this site which led here). I’d be proud of myself for understanding the reference if the song itself didn’t make me a little uncomfortable.
I see the Homestar Runner “Experimental Film” video for the first time, in a dingy apartment in Minneapolis. For the first time I make the connection between They Might Be Giants, the band; and this song, which is awesome. Every day before I go to my telemarketing job I play this song and rock out.
Oh—and of course I get the reference to Un Chien Andalou. Even though I’ve never actually seen the film. But there’s no one in Minneapolis to tell about it, so it doesn’t matter.
2005 Part Two
On the basis of “Experimental Film,” I decide that TMBG is my favorite band. Even though the only real understanding I have of their oeuvre is this song, plus a few memories of a salivating dog, Edith Head, and getting older. I decide to buy my sister a TMBG album for Christmas because I think that giving other people things that I think are cool is a good idea. On Amazon, the TMBG albums are too expensive (even used) so I compromise by getting John Linnell’s solo project State Songs. My sister loves it.
2005 Part Three
I happen to see a sign for a TMBG free outdoor concert in dingy Minneapolis. The concert, however, happened two days ago. I promise myself that I will go to a TMBG concert someday.
Talking music with a friend; I mention, of course, “Experimental Film.”
“Is “Experimental Film” your favorite TMBG song?” my friend asks.
“Yes,” I say. “What’s yours?”
“Yeah, that’s a great song,” I agree.
I'm bluffing: I’ve never heard “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” Never knew it existed until that moment. Later that day I google it tentatively, wondering what could be so good that it surpassed “Experimental Film.” I listened to it and understood.
I’m twenty-six at this point and perturbed at the incorrect reference: Jason and the Argonauts were not killed by a faulty lighthouse. Medea guided Jason home safely and no one crashed on the rocks and then Jason married Medea and they had two sons and then Jason started macking on Glauce and so Medea made a magical dress and gave it to Glauce and she put it on and burst into flames ‘cause it was magic and then Medea killed her two children so Jason’s bloodline would end and I’m a dork.
2008 Part Two
Thanks to a combination of YouTube and Seeqpod, I begin to familiarize myself with the entirety of TMBG’s twenty-year career. (Actually, that’s a lie. What I really is listen to “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Don’t Let’s Start,” and “I Palindrome I” over and over and over. )
2008 Part Three
Wait: they wrote the theme to The Daily Show???
2008 Part Four
When my sister graduated from college, she got a book titled Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: After Graduation, which contained such gems of advice as “Give Up Your Political Ideology” and “Get A Haircut.” (The book advised graduates to, quite literally, give up their hobbies, beliefs, and friends in order to start a new life as a working adult; it says that after six months into the job you are allowed to go back to one hobby and call up your college friends to ask how they are doing. It’s an extremely depressing book to give to a new graduate.) The one piece of advice I liked was the one that said “Every time you get a new job or a promotion, buy yourself a present.”
I decided that when I got my new job I would buy myself a copy of TMBG’s Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants. I got my new job. I decided it would be better to build an emergency fund. I never bought the CD.
I made a New Year’s Goal to attend a TMBG concert. They were still, after all, my favorite band—even though I only knew a few of their songs and had never bought any of their CDs.
2009 Part Two
I buy my first TMBG CD. It’s the “greatest hits” album A User’s Guide To They Might Be Giants and it is used, on super-sale in the back bin of Melody Records. I listen to the CD like, a jillion times.
2009 Last Week
I do a quick search to see what TMBG concerts are coming up in the next few months and end up buying tickets for the Flood Concert coming up this Saturday. ^__^
2009 This Morning
Using Seeqpod, I listen to (and record) the Flood album for the first time. I'm twenty-seven and the album is twenty years old exactly.