I Hate Music
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 3. This Song’s In (Parentheses)
Some say this song was written as a response to fans who found the brackets in the song title of (She Was A) Hotel Detective annoying and difficult to sing. Such fans later had their mail traced by the FBI and have now been locked away in a high security prison for simpletons. Not only is the song title nerdy and foolish, it is also incorrect. The only thing in parentheses in this song is the word parentheses – which means the song could also be called just “This Song’s In”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if the hottest young stars of the day, in the hottest film were to be caught having fun whilst listening to this record – it would not be “In”. Especially since the track uses that most “In” of instruments, a plastic toy harmonica and an accordian. The only thing that should be in parentheses in this song is the mark out of ten. (0).
Now I know Freaky Trigger is about to launch a oh so tiresome, ripped off of Q feature which answers all your queries about pop music. I know this because site owner Tom Ewing asked if I had any questions for this so called spurious Doctor of Pop. Apart from the obvious questions (how have you managed to live this long) one query has been nagging me for quite some time. Its a simple question, and one whose answer came to me in a trice.
Q. Who Let The Dogs Out?
A. Any fucker who had heard this abysmal excuse for a novelty summer pop-ragga crossover. Anyone who had heard the Baha Men’s previous no mark career in soft back peddling Reggae. And especially anyone who has had to suffer through even a second of their current excuse for a single “You All Dat” (being all DAT is something Phillips and Sony were keen to stamp out in the early nineties by the way). However the phrase we are looking for here is not strictly called letting the dogs out. I think what we are after here is “Releasing The Hounds”.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON (and therefore Jonathon Ross’ record collection) WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 4. Mellow Marsh
A stab at psychedelia, which if psychadelia pressed charges would almost be reduced to “acting goofy with a deadly weapon”. Mellow Marsh cleverly transposes the two constituent words of marshmellow, to tell a story about Vietnam draft dodgers making out in a bit of swampy land whilst smoking what the song describes as Jazz Cigarettes. This being TMBG the tune does not get very explicit on the making out front – instead some feeble stab at inuenddo is made regarding “toasting on a stick” which is about as suggestive as saying your drink looks like a slug (though possibly true in TMBG case). Musically Mellow Marsh outstays its welcome by a good three minutes, and uses the idiots guide to psychadelia by employing a sitar, with accordian backing. Mellow Marsh has been taken up by the DEA as part of their war against drugs, as they manage to make them sound not only dull and uninspired but thoroughly geeky as well.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR (or indeed – if the accordian was substituted with out of tune guitar – Jonathon Richman’s) BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 5. The Ghosts Of Pac-Man
An idea which shouts through a megaphone that it was conceived on the back of a beermat- The Ghosts Of Pac-Man asks a number of searching questions about the blamanche-like spooks in the early eighties video arcade game. An idea not fully developed one must assume as
a) Beermats are not very big
b) TMBG are the kind of guys who beaten up in bars
c) Well at least the kind of bar I go to
d) And admittedly I would probably be doing the beating up
e) Mainly because they obviously cannot take their beer, and that’s pissy American beer at that – about 2.9% proof.
Anyway, the song (if such a word could be used) asks important questions like – what were the ghosts when they were alive? Why do they want to eat Pac-Man? Why are they scared of him when he is on drugs? Do they represent the spectre of socialism, to Pac-Man’s obviously avaricious capitalist – or is that merely a Marxist reading of history done by people kicked off their politics course for being “too whiny”. Its difficult to say, especially when presented over the sounds of a bunch of dodgy early eighties synths set up to emulate their memory of early Namco games, plus an accordian.
(Note: Jonathon Richman’s version of this imaginary song, if it were to be written, would be a lot more sympathetic to the ghosts – admitting that often he cried at night feeling sorry for the arbitary baddies of the piece).
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 6: Eine Kline Bongwater
(With customary apology to newcomers to the relative obscurity of this item. I rip the piss out of John Lennon below. And indeed on most of the other pages too.)
A tribute to both classical prodigy and early death boy Mozart and the late eighties US indie stars of the Shimmy Disc roster (stars in a 40W lightbulb from the distance of two miles sort of way). As a tribute it is akin to making a statue of both out of giraffe’s fecal matter. Ein Kline Bongwater attempts to be a vague cover version of Bongwater’s “The Power Of Pussy” set to a Mozart like twiddly clasical backing. This grand project is scuppered by three things:
a) The Power Of Pussy is a lousy record, and is actually quite offensive when sung by a man who is one.
b) Mozart was rubbish, and TMBG are no Mozart’s when it comes even to pastiching classical music
c) It is played exclusively on an accordian.
THE TEN SMUGGEST MEN IN ROCK
My apologies, faithful readers, for this interruption but it’s come to my attention that new people may actually be visiting, and perhaps a list of fictional songs by They Might Be Giants is not the best possible welcome. My understanding is that some of you newcomers are readers of weblogs or music mags, so I’d better keep this as simple as possible.
Smug, adj. possessed of undeserved self-satisfaction. A lot of rock stars are smug, of course, mostly because they are cossetted idlers who have made a very tidy living by peddling rank idiocy to a dazed and drooling public. Even the dead ones are probably smug: I’m sure that down in pop hell the ex-stars look up and are relieved from their endless torments by our infinite gullibilities. “Fucking hell, Kurt! Look at that! ‘Imagine’ No.1 in another poll! I only wrote it because Yoko bet me a bag of Moroccan I couldn’t come up with anything duller than ‘Let It Be’” “Uh yeah whatever nevermind”
Mind you it is in the realm of indie rock that the worst self-congratulation takes place. It is not difficult to become an indie rock star, oh dearie me no. You don’t have to look good, play good, talk good, think good, or indeed do anything other than turn up and sulk a bit. Sooner or later huge sheds in Olympia and Manchester will be discovered, holding the Indie Lottery Machines which randomly allocate which bunch of unemployable layabouts are the flavour of this month (imagine chewing the same piece of gum for a month and you’ve got an idea of how tasty most indie bands are). And yet indie musicians are smugness champions: here are the ten worst.
10. BADLY DRAWN BOY: Admittedly this unassuming shuffler is more punchable than smug but the gap between achievement (arrives on stage, picks nose, wobbles off, records bad soft-rock album) and reception (wins every award on earth) cannot fail to have inflated his apish ego. Smuggest Moment: calling a typically MOR plod “Another Pearl”.
9. STEPHEN MALKMUS: Sad-eyed fringe-merchant and perpetual student, will continue making the same album again and again until the education system is annihilated in a Maoist revolution. (see also Stephen Pastel) Smuggest Moment: endless rambling shaggy dog story concerning Smashing Pumpkins tour, won ‘cred’ by dissing Stone Temple Pilots, which is like watching someone fire a bullet into the ground and congratulating them for hitting the planet Earth.
8. STEVE ALBINI: Likes old vinyl and knows how to swear. Has built “ooh, scary” reputation by badmouthing the people who pay his wages. Thoroughly dislikeable. Smuggest Moment: endless Nirvana petulance.
7. MOLOKO: Not indie you say but one of them used to be in indie-funk outfit Chakk (think indie-dance but even more horrible). Besides their rancid narcissism and playschool ‘experimentation’ are indie to a San Andreas fault. Smuggest Moment: calling first album Do You Like My Tight Sweater, i.e. Look At My Tits
6. MOMUS: He’s an artist now, you know. Smuggest Moment: re-recording an entire album of his own godawful forgotten songs, forgotten for much the same reasons that wet loud farts in front of prospective dates are.
5. STEPHIN MERRITT: New York God-King of smug, unstoppable juggernaut of pallid wryness, who rumour has it is reviving the grand tradition of the musical. I intend in turn to revive the grand tradition of the rancid tomato: who’s for an opening night date? Smuggest Moment: that fucking “i” in his name.
4. NICKY WIRE: He’s the most intelligent man in rock (by dint of having got beyond page 20 once in a politics textbook). And my lord does he let you know it. In reality he’s a gangly, reactionary, embarrassing old twat, mithering about playing rent-a-quote to cover up the fact that his band are crap beerboy crowdpleasers and after nine years learning the simplest instrument in the world he still can’t fucking play it. Smuggest Moment: “PCP”
3. MICHAEL STIPE: Everybody hurts. Everybody hurts. Everybody fucking hurts. Fucking skinny bald fucker walking on fucking cars while the worst fucking song ever devised strums oh-so-fucking-politely behind him. Nobody is hurting more than fucking me, Stipe. Smuggest Moment: what do you think?
2. NEIL HANNON: The Liam Gallagher to Stephin Merritt’s John Lennon. Yes, quite that unspeakable. Taps a weary old tradition of sniggery music-hall ‘wit’, which will prepare him for a long and fruitless career trading unfunny jibes with Ned Sherrin on Start The Week. Now winning a following among stupid Americans who don’t quite realise how horrible that prospect is. Smuggest Moment: “National Express”, a bottomless abyss of conceited flab-brained horror.
1. DAMON ALBARN: He may change his style with every album but he certainly can’t change his awful boggling perky smugness. The world of pop may tolerate him, may even respect his ability to shift units to the kind of people who think ‘dangerous’ is when you throw away your IKEA instructions before you build the shelving unit. But it will never, ever remotely like him. Smuggest Moment: “Western pop bores me. I’ve recorded an album in Mali.” Plenty of cheap laughs still to come, I suspect.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK 7: Telephone On My Desk
(You know, four days in – that title is starting to look a bit wieldy).
Written, on a slow day even for the genii which TMBG are. The two John’s were sitting in the They Might Be Giants Cave (actually a pokey rented office space shared with a massuse two stories above a Chinese restaurant) – kicking around ideas for a song. John One suggested “Desk”, whch John Two countered with “Telephone”. Realising both of these ideas not to be up to the standard of their usual glittering gems they compromised – creating one of the finest works of music since Paul McCartney made a pact with the devil and sold John Lennon’s soul (a worthless item anyway if you’ve heard his solo records). The tune merely repeats the words “Ring, Ring – Little telephone on the desk” over the sound of a metronome and an accordian. It rocks in at a magnificent one minute, one second – five seconds of which is CD dead air.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 8: Fistula
(Note: This feature is in a way a tribute to the generous Dial-A-Song service which They Might Be Giants used to run, which would have a fresh song every day. As was pointed out in the pub the other day, freshness is not always a good thing. Every shit is fresh from the moment it pokes out its wee turtle head.)
A charming, and thankfully short, tune with two different and rather difficult to discern time signatures. The verses talk ponderously about the trials of puberty over a German style Oompah band backing and accordion. The chorus on the other hand borrows heavily on the tune, the words and the idea behind ‘Who Put The Bomp’, merely substituting the grossly unamusing line ‘He put his fist in my fistu-fistula — He wiped the pus on my new nylon sweater’. Luckily the song does not bother with another verse, though it still leaves the listener with the odd idea that one of the John’s in TMBG had a sweater made of nylon. Of course acrylic would have made more sense, but not scanned quite so well. Like the effort paid to that tiny aspect of musical construction was worthwhile.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 9: Hot For Dogs
TMBG answer to Squeeze’s “Cool For Cats”, and specifically the question not posited by Difford and Tilbrook – What if condiments could fall in love? Hot For Dogs is the heartwarming (in the way that bile – when produced in sufficient quantities – will warm any part of the body) tale of a romance between the ketchup and the mustard on top of a Jumbo Dog served after the fourth innings of a baseball game. Set to the backing of chugging ZZ Top style guitar, djembe and accordion, The Hot Dog also has a supporting cast of fried onions and the wedding chapel of the purchasers mouth. The song manages to raise not a single smile from its elaborate ampropomorphism of tangy taste providers – and the bathos raised by the contrived yet unsurprising “being eaten” ending is so weak it would be better renamed showeros.
TEN SONGS WHICH WERE NOT WRITTEN BY THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS BUT WHICH WOULD NEVERTHELESS FIT INTO THEIR BENIGHTED CANON WITH NARY A SECOND LOOK: 10: Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm, I Am A Mute (Ant)
TMBG’s answer to The Who’s “Tommy”, and specifically the question – Can anyone write a stupider disability themed song than “Pinball Wizard”? This is a supposedly whimsical, but instead thoroughly irritating coming of age tale of a young kid called John who is unable to speak. The song is set to a drum machine, ukulele and accordion backing – and in particular makes account of the bullying the young mute gets. Nowhere is it explained in the song how John – whilst mute to all his contemporaries, is able to sing (or at least whine) this song. Continuity and factual inacuracies come to a head when it is revealed – to nobodies surprise at all – that the reason John cannot speak is because he is actually an insect. This is of course obvious from the title – its a bit like calling Psycho : “Norman Bates Did It Dressed As His Mother”, or The Sixth Sense “Bruce Is Dead”. Foolishness is compounded when it is never revealed how an ant managed to escape the rigourous constrictions of the ant colonies hive mind, and then enrol into the Public School system. Nor why if a member of They Might Be Giants turned up in a school in the form of an ant, the kids would not be fighting each other to stamp on the tuneless little bugger.