They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants (TMBG) might best be remembered for a trio of '80's songs; "Don't Let's Start," "Ana Ng" (#11 on the Modern Rock chart) and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)." Then there was "Boss Of Me," which was the theme song for the TV comedy Malcolm In The Middle" and earned the band an '02 Grammy. But the band's story covers a lot more ground including innovative uses of emerging technology, recording songs for TV shows (like the theme to Comedy Central's The Daily Show) and a handful of children's albums.
John Flansburgh and John Linnell hailed from Lincoln, MA. But they moved to Brooklyn to foster They Might Be Giants, a name taken from the '71 George C. Scott/Joanne Woodword film.
TMBG released their self-titled debut album, containing "Don't Let's Start," in '86. It was a college radio hit and MTV played the single. Two years later, "Ana Ng" was the lead track of TMBG's sophomore set, "Lincoln."
Signed to Elektra Records, TMBG issued "Flood" which went gold due to the success of the singles "Birdhouse In Your Soul" (#3 on the Modern Rock chart) and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)."
Early in their career, TMBG employed Dial-A-Song, an answering machine with a tape of the band playing various songs. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn-based Dial-A-Song service was often difficult to access and not very reliable. But there were other, better, ways to get their music heard. A decade or so later, TMBG became the first major label act to release an entire album, '99's "Long Tall Weekend," exclusively in mp3 format through Emusic. Five years after that venture, the band created one of the first artist-owned online music stores.
In the early '90's Flansburgh and Linnell decided to make TMBG a full band. Albums came and went and didn't do much to improve the band's fortunes. What did, was fairly consistent TV and film work including the track "Dr. Evil" for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" soundtrack.
TMBG were known for quirky, if not downright silly, songs. So it made sense to do a children's album. '02 saw "No!" But their breakthrough came in '05 with "Here Come The ABCs," which went gold and earned them their second Grammy Award ("Boss Of Me" was the first). "Here Come the 123s" and "Here Comes Science" rolled out in '08 and '09, respectively.
Having not done an "adult" album since '07's "The Else," TMBG returned to the "grown-ups table" in '11 with "Join Us."
The band's seventeenth studio album, "Nonobots," arrived two years later.
1986 They Might Be Giants
1992 Apollo 18
1994 John Henry
1996 Factory Showroom
1999 Long Tall Weekend (Internet-only)
2001 Mink Car
2004 The Spine
2005 Here Come the ABCs
2007 The Else
2008 Here Come the 123s
2009 Here Comes Science
2011 Join Us
"Nanobots" is more crazily crafted left of center guitar pop (the title track, "You're On Fire" and "Lost My Mind"). They Might Be Giants manage to weld off-beat titles with complimentary arrangements. "Circular Karate Chop" has a Farfisa organ, "Call You Mom" is a naturally retro romp with guitar and sax interplay and "Sometimes A Lonely Way," perhaps the set's only serious moment, is an accordion based ballad.
Also, "Nanobots" has twenty-five tracks but many are snippets - some under 30 seconds -that come across like toss-off one-liners.