Listening to a new band can be tough. You have to adjust to the style they play, the signer’s vocals, the instrumentation, and how smooth their music is. But one of the hardest decisions about getting into a band is probably picking an album, especially if the band doesn’t have a “classic” or even well known album. This was the case for me when I first started to get into They Might Be Giants. I didn’t know much about them. I didn’t know any of their albums, and I only knew one or two of their songs. After a long while of deciding, I bought “Severe Tire Damage”, hence being my first of many They Might Be Giants albums. And god did I make a good pick. “Severe Tire Damage” is a mostly live album. It visits the cosmic classics of the band, like Ana Ng, Birdhouse In Your Soul, and Particle Man. Add a few songs that were previously unreleased until this album, interesting instrumentation, a lot of experimental sounds, an accordion, a competitive song of two powerhouse bands from the 70’s, and a whole section of the album devoted to Planet Of The Apes, you’ve got Severe Tire Damage!
They Might Be Giants-
John Linnell- Vocals, Accordion
John Flansburgh- Vocals, Guitar
They Might Be Giants History
Here is a brief history of TMBG. TMBG is a duo of John’s, John Linnell and John Flansburgh. They started TMBG in 1982 in New York City. They performed gigs around Manhattan’s Underground, and soon became a fixture there. Their early concerts had been deemed “performance art”, for they used props on stage. The most famous of these props, which is still used today by the band, is a giant cut out head of William Allen White. In 1986, TMBG released their self titled debut. Their single from their self titled debut, Don’t Let’s Start, immediately became a favorite of college students across America. In 1988, TMBG released “Lincoln”. (The album was called this because the two partners in crime met in Lincoln, Massachusetts.) 1990 was the year they released what many say is their magnum opus, “Flood”. They released 5 less than successful albums in the 90’s, and have already released four more albums in the past five years. They are still around to this very day, touring on a regular basis.
Severe Tire Damage Review
“Severe Tire Damage” is a witty mix of experimental pop music as well as good song structure , instrumentation and lyrically speaking. The lyrics, for instance, are wacky but fascinating none the less, even though some critique the lyrics as being “nerdy”. Linnell has a very unique voice that is one of a kind, and gives the songs a wacky bang. “Severe Tire Damage” is absolutely loaded with hooks. Many songs have a lot of catchy riffs, fills, and lines that give certain songs an edge over other weaker songs. Another aspect of TMBG is their songs. All of their songs are optimistic and upbeat, even though some songs may be in a darker key. Some of the songs have hilarious lyrics as well. Meet James Ensor is a prime example of this. “Meet James Ensor, Belgium's famous painter. Dig him up and shake his hand, appreciate the man. Before there were junk stores, before there was junk, he lived with his mother and the torments of Christ. The world was transformed, a crowd gathered round. Pressed against his window so they could be the first, to meet James Ensor. Belgium's famous painter. Raise a glass and sit and stare. Understand the man.”
On “Severe Tire Damage”, there are a handful of TMBG classics. Probably the most famous TMBG songs that is on “Severe Tire Damage” is Birdhouse In Your Soul. Linnell’s vocals are what makes Birdhouse, Birdhouse. His vocals are key as they compliment the instrumentation of the song, and fit in there just right, almost as if he's the only person who could sing this song with his "nerdy" vocals. The instrumentation gives Linnell's vocals a boost. The keyboard part is probably the hook of the song as it just hangs in there for the whole song. Flansburgh’s guitar completes the song with some nasty effects. The two come together to sing the very end of the song, completing what in my opinion is the best TMBG song ever. The other classic TMBG song on “Sever Tire Damage” is Ana Ng. The vocals aren’t as good as the ones on Birdhouse, because of the fact that they happen to drag on and on for awhile, but aside from that, everything else is fine. The guitar, keyboard, and bass parts fit together perfectly, helping along Linnell's droning vocals, as well as giving the song a bolster in energy. This version of Ana Ng isn't a classic, but is as good as any other version of it.
The last TMBG classic of "Severe Tire Damage" is Particle Man. Linnell's vocals are key in this song, fitting together perfectly with the instrumentation, especially the accordion. The accordion part is the hook in this song, really giving Particle Man its luster. The bass part is the accordion's side kick on this song, if you will, and completes a sharp instrumentation egde on Particle Man. Particle Man is a must listen to on "Severe Tire Damage", especially if you've never heard it before.
Aside from the famous TMBG songs, you also have the wacky as hell TMBG songs. Enter the world of Doctor Worm. The song is about a worm that isn’t an actual doctor, but enjoys playing the drums. The songs instrumentation is what makes Doctor Worm. There is a wide range of instruments used, from bongos to a horn section. And of course, Linnell's vocals. What can I say? They're absolutely perfect for the song. His vocals go through all kinds of mood changes, from loud and energetic, to soft and sad, not to mention they fit in perfectly with the horn section. Linnell's vocals really make Doctor Worm one of the classic TMBG songs. Have you ever heard a song about two bands battling for their place in rock and roll? If you haven’t, this is the place to go if you want to here a song that fits the above example! XTC vs. Adam Ant is one of the most hilarious TMBG songs off “Severe Tire Damage” the lyrics are wacky, pointing out that XTC and Adam Ant are “fighting for their place in rock and roll”, and “only one will survive”. And then, there is the just plain weird Spider. It’s 54 seconds of TMBG at there wackiest, but best at the same time. Spider is a great of example of how weird but loveable TMBG can be.
And then, there are the just plain fun tracks. The Sun is a Mass Of Incandescent Gas falls perfectly into this category. This is one of the very few covers we see TMBG do, as this was written in the late 1950's. The lyrics are fun and smart, Flansburgh sings them to the fullest, while the instrumentation part is flawless. The Sun is one of the funnest, most upbeat song on "Severe Tire Damage" (well, not really) Till My Held Falls Off is another fun song. It’s upbeat, hilarious and cosmic, what more can you ask for? The lyrics don’t make sense, which gives the song a cunning edge that makes it funny. The guitar and bass create a great mix for Linnell's vocals, thus making another great track off "Severe Tire Damage".
“Severe Tire Damage” is one of the most interesting live albums ever, factually speaking. Aside form this being a combination of both live and studio songs, one of the songs on “Sever Tire Damage”, Meet James Endsor, was recorded in a hotel room. There are hidden tracks on the album that are based of the movie “Planet of The Apes”, and there is a long pause between the end of About Me, and the beginning of Planet of The Apes.
“Severe Tire Damage” may seem perfect, but does have its flaws. The main thing is filler songs. Most of the songs on here fit well, but there are one of two filler songs that come to my mind, the main one being About Me. The song is short and pointless, and has a very long pause, possibly just taking room up for the album. Another filler part of the album is the Planet of The Apes portion of the album. I think it’s cool how they did a Planet of the Apes part during the show, but it seems like it’s there two take up space on the album. Aside from filler songs “Severe Tire Damage” is flawless.
“Severe Tire Damage” has got to be one of the best TMBG albums ever. It’s a very clever and unique TMBG album, especially because parts are from studio, while most parts are from concerts. The songs are fun. The musicianship is good. There’s nothing much too really complain about except some filler songs. If you want to start listening to They Might Be Giants, start here. This has got a few of the classics, as well as a lot of other great songs that are just fun to listen to.
The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas
Birdhouse In Your Soul
XTC vs. Adam Ant
Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Meet James Endsor
Till My Head Falls Off