Tuesday, June 07, 2011

90's Hit Parade #58

They Might Be Giants - Your Racist Friend

It was hard to narrow it down to just one song from Flood. That opening volley of earworms alone--the joyous "Birdhouse in Your Soul," "Lucky Ball and Chain," "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," and this song--is incredibly solid, and even throwaway songs like "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" can get stuck in your head for weeks. My wife would probably divorce me if she found out I was only picking a single song from this album, and considering some of the bands that I'm giving multiple slots to, she might have grounds. Anyway, I picked this one over "Istanbul" just on the basis of the latter being a cover song, and I think the lyrics are a bit more interesting than "Birdhouse." But really, you could take your pick.

I always like lyrics that cover subjects to which we can all relate, but which there aren't any other songs about, and "Racist Friend" sure does fit that bill. We've all been in this situation before. You're talking to someone at a party, they're saying things that border on racism, but you don't want to be Mr. Annoying PC Guy, so your just "nodding and pretending," then he crosses over that line, that line where if you nod and smile, you're implicating yourself. It's an uncomfortable moment, and you don't really want to deal with it, but there you are. Time to ruin the party.


If TMBG were the band you thought they were the first time you heard them, the light, clever band with the catchy songs that sound like old advertising jingles and are fun to tap your feet to, they would still be an awesome band. But of course, once you actually hear the lyrics to those goofy jingles, you realize that there's a dark streak running under the surface. This is what makes them a great band. (It's for this reason that 1988's Lincoln is my favorite of their albums, the one where this darkness is closest to the surface: the paranoia of "Where Your Eyes Don't Go," or the sadness of the disolving relationship in "They'll Need a Crane".) Here's a classic example, from after the time I stopped following their career (I checked out after Apollo 18). It's a catchy little song about the inevitability of death. You can actually feel it getting closer by the second: "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..."

Oh, wait, I just discovered that this song is from the 2001 album Mink Car, which should disqualify it for this list, but since I already wrote all this stuff, I'm keeping it. Anyway, there seem to be some late 90's performances on YouTube. Also, just because I LOVE this video:

They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople) from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

And, what the hey...


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