Formed in 1982 in Brooklyn, New York by John Flansburgh and John Linnell, They Might Be Giants released their self-titled debut in 1986.
Following that mix of eclectic tracks, the duo followed up with their sophomore effort Lincoln in 1988, an equally diverse collection of songs. Between these two records, the band had 36 songs under their belts.
These 12 cuts are the catchiest, strangest, and boldest of the bunch.
The second track from Lincoln presents a song that feels equally at home as accompaniment to a square dance or as a group chant on a pirate ship. The lyrics, as is often the case with TMBG, are not extremely direct in their meaning but do not make the song any less enjoyable.
“Mr. Me,” is yet another track that feels like sailing the high seas, given the yo yo yo vocals and accordion, it sounds like the song is being performed by They Might Be Giants featuring a crew of alternative rock pirates.
“Stand on Your Own Head”
Perhaps one of the most stylistically straightforward tracks on Lincoln, “Stand on Your Own Head” delivers a short and sweet bluegrass vibe complete with banjos, twangy guitars, a driving bass drum, and (naturally) accordion. Despite its brevity, the song remains impactful by virtue of its infectious energy.
“I Hope that I Get Old Before I Die”
One of the most interesting instances of sampling on the band’s self-titled release. The track is as fun as it is strange, jumping back and forth between infectious melodies and a menagerie of quirky sound effects.
“Alienation’s for the Rich”
While there may not be much instrumental experimentation to speak of on this country track, Flansburgh more than makes up for it with an over the top vocal performance. From the lyric “alienation’s for the rich and I’m feeling poor everyday” to the mule-like inflection he sings it with, this is a particularly hilarious highlight from the self-titled record.
“Nothing’s Gonna Change My Clothes”
It could be said that this is one of the more conventional tracks from the band, but even it has its peculiarities. The heavy guitar progression that follows the chorus is a drastic change in mood to say the least but adds tons of character.
“Piece of Dirt”
A truly beautiful track with a consistently engaging progression. Like some other songs on this list, it does not stick around very long, but the stunning instrumental palette leaves a strong impression all the same.
“Don’t Let’s Start”
One of the better known tunes from They Might Be Giants, and for good reason. The groovy drums, esoteric lyrics, and the “I don’t want to live in this world anymore” detour all make this a shining representation of the band’s sound.
“They’ll Need a Crane”
Yet another danceable moment on Lincoln, though more melancholy than “Cowtown,” or “Stand on Your Own Head.” The drums are especially captivating and emphasize the vocals wonderfully.
“I’ve Got a Match”
Where much of Lincoln is peppy and lighthearted, “I’ve Got a Match,” is a bit of an exception, feeling closer to a ballad. However, despite the sweet instrumental backdrop, lyrics like get out of the car / put down the phone / take off that stupid looking hat you wear do keep the song from feeling like a traditionally lovesick piece.
“She’s an Angel”
The plodding synth and drums that kick this song off give a somewhat dark first impression but the easygoing chorus is nothing but smile-inducing.
Flansburgh’s dramatic singing over triumphant accordion perfectly captures the lighthearted energy that the duo is so proficient at creating. It may not be the most fully-formed song on the self-titled album, but it fits in well with the other shorter tracks and adds a different flavor of oddity to the record.
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