Because Songs Matter

Flashback Friday: They Might Be Giants

Many summer breaks and vacations in my adolescence were spent in New Jersey, at the home of my favorite aunt and uncle, and my older cousin, Josh. Josh was my hero growing up. Three years my senior, Josh was the definition of cool. His influence left an imprint on many areas of my life, including my taste in music. On breaks, he would fill my ears with oodles of tunes I wouldn’t have heard coming from the cassette players of my grade school friends, or on the multi-colored airwaves of MTV. In the mid-90s mainstream world of Vanilla Ice, Pearl Jam, and the Second-Coming of Whitney Houston, I was instead gorged on compositions from The Sundays, The Cranes, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, and other under-the-radar groups. For a pre-teen who was used to picking up on new music solely via FM radio, this was aural nirvana.

Driving home late at night from friends’ houses, Josh would throw in a mixtape and crank up the stereo of his hand-me-down station wagon. The music pumping and the streetlights through trees carving ghostly shadows on the pavement, I would forget all about my life back home, my awful bowl-cut, and the fact that I was not as world savvy as the lyrics of the songs often detailed. As we zigzagged through the hills and half-lit neighborhoods, I would close my eyes and let the music wash over me. Everything was better here, I would think.

One particular night, stereo blasting, a song came on that sent tiny explosions of happiness down my spine, and prompted me to ask Josh to hit the rewind button. Quirky and heavy-handed on the xylophone and synth, it was unlike anything I’d ever heard. The intro was chaotic and zany, almost irritatingly so, with the song exploding into a frenzied clutter of programmed electronics, rambunctious guitar, and stuffy-nose lyrics. I was hooked. And felt a little like I belonged in a slapstick comedy or Warner Bros. cartoon. Who came up with this stuff?

The song, “Hey, Mr. DJ” by They Might Be Giants is still one hell of a catchy romp. To this day, the band brings back memories of fresh mountain air, winding roads, and the days when you felt invincible and free, as if the whole world was yours for the taking. You know what I’m talking about. Cheeseball or not, I love me some TMBG. What’s your song?


  1. wendy wendy
    January 19, 2007    

    I think my easy favorite (LP) is of course, Flood. Minimum Wage, Birdhouse in Your Soul…all gems.

    I also love the song James K Polk from a later album (title escapes me).

    I remember discovering them in the early days of MTV…I was enraptured. Their old Dial-a-Song is still operational too, I think.

  2. January 19, 2007    

    Particle man, particle man
    Doing the things a particle can
    What’s he like? It’s not important
    Particle man

    Is he a dot, or is he a speck?
    When he’s underwater does he get wet?
    Or does the water get him instead?
    Nobody knows, Particle man

  3. Maura Maura
    January 22, 2007    

    Once a boy named Mr Me
    Bemoaned a great regret
    He floundered in the misty sea
    but can’t abide the mystery
    he wound up sad you bet

  4. Maura Maura
    January 22, 2007    

    Oh, no no no, I take that back, this one is better:

    I will never say the word Procrastinate again
    I’ll never see myself in the mirror with my eyes closed
    I didn’t apologize for when I was 8
    and I made my younger brother have to be my personal slave

    Did a large procession wave their torches
    as my head fell in the basket
    and was everybody dancing on the casket?
    Now it’s over I’m dead and I havent
    done anything that I want
    Or I’m still alive and theres nothing I want to do.

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