thanks for being weird, TMBG
One unexpected thing that I owe to my Mormon upbringing is my love for the weird band They Might Be Giants. That’s not to say that there’s something distinctly Mormon about TMBG in the way that there is something distinctly Mormon about the existential fear of not doing things correct way that I also picked up during these years. Rather, it’s just the fact that I learned about TMBG—more specifically, their famous cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople)—from Craig Wilson, a youth leader in my local congregation. This is my main memory of Wilson, who moved away from Northern Kentucky shortly after the conversation in his car where he mentioned the song to me. The only time I’ve seen him since was at my wedding in Utah, about a decade later. I hadn’t even realized that my parents had invited him and was pleasantly surprised that he was there.
Without overstating things too much, there’s something fitting about the man who introduced me to TMBG being present at my wedding, even if I don’t have much of a memory of him beyond that. I do remember managing to find the Tiny Toons music video of Istanbul somewhere online, no small feat in the pre-YouTube era of the World Wide Web. That was apparently enough to convince me, because TMBG’s Flood was the second album I ever owned (after the Star Wars: A New Hope soundtrack, of course). This band had an enormous impact on my taste in music: Flood is weird, TMBG in general is weird, and learning that I loved weird music was a gamechanger for me. In the years since clicking with TMBG, I discovered The Aquabats in high school, Jonathan Coulton in college, Public Service Broadcasting in grad school, and Neil Cicierega when this Vox article mentioned his newest album. These bands are all weird, and I love them all.
For all my love for them, these bands don’t make up a huge amount of my listening these days. My tastes aren’t exactly mainstream—I listen to a lot of Francophone internet radio, Québécois folk rock, and other obscure-in-America stuff—but I don’t spend as much time with weird music now as I used to. A few weeks ago, though, I rediscovered the music video for You’re On Fire, the first track on TMBG’s 2013 album Nanobots. I didn’t discover Nanobots until years after it came out, but it is a fantastic example of weird music; the You’re On Fire music video turns it up to eleven. The lyrics are strange on their own, but in the video they’re sung by what I can only describe as a cuter-than-it-sounds ground beef puppet accompanied by dancing broccoli and carrots. It is everything that I love about TMBG, and everything that makes my wife roll her eyes about the weird music that I listen to. At least she knows who to blame, because she met the guy at our wedding.
Anyway, here’s the video, in all its glory. Thanks for being weird, TMBG. I don’t listen to you a lot anymore, but every once in a while, this is exactly what I need:
- They Might Be Giants
- The Aquabats
- Public Service Broadcasting
- Neil Cicierega
- internet radio
- Les Cowboys Fringants
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