They Might Be Giants



by Clumpy USER (29 Reviews)
May 13th, 2005 | 2 replies

Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Disc 2 of an Indispensable Anthology

This review is for Disc 2 of the They Might Be Giants anthology "Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants. The discs are sold together. You may wish to read the review for disc 1 first:

Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants [Disc 2]
by Clumpy

The description of this anthology is covered in my review of Disc 1 (link posted above). This review will cover only the track listings for Disc 2; this review is really only an appendix to my other review.

I will say a little about Disc 2: it's not quite as good as Disc 1. Some of the songs meander randomly or just bore. These songs are often interesting, but not always good music. On the other hand, Disc 2 is wonderfully experimental, and has a few songs I consider some of the best on the album. It's a great complement to the more straightfoward (but still great) Disc 1.

So, without further ado:

Track Listings [Disc 2]
She's An Angel
"She's An Angel" is a song of demented beauty. It opens with a simple stomping melody before its incredibly catchy and thoughtful chorus. This is probably one of the most underrated They Might Be Giants songs around - it's a great starter for Disc 2.
How Can I Sing Like A Girl?
It's a rhetorical question. The catchy song features a story about a man who is afraid to sing due to his voice. I love one line in particular: "I want to raise my freak flag higher and higher. . ."
James K. Polk
A song about the eleventh president of the United States. This is a very educational song - I've actually impressed some friends with the knowledge gained from this song.
Meet James Ensor
Despite being about a historical figure, "Meet James Ensor" is a great tale of historical ignorance. The interlude is great, but these "history and science" songs sometimes seem more like a nod to the NPR crowd than anything.
A strange, rambling song with a great melody. I enjoy the pseudointellectual lyrics; this song name-checks scientific names and facts like. . . something that gets name-checked a lot. Perhaps a rapper.
Pet Name
Probably the third great song on Disc 2 (after tracks 1 and 2), "Pet Name" is another entry in the genre TMBG does best; sad, sentimental love songs. The lyrics parade and self-contradict themselves in a way few other bands can pull off. Of course, it helps that the song is classy and well-done.
This would be a great song if it weren't so obviously written for children. I consider myself a big They Might Be Giants fan, but many of their "kid songs" don't hold the same appeal for me. While the main riff is great (and comparatively rocklike for a TMBG song), the lyrics and "feel" is a little childish. This is their only song from their popular children's album, but I can't help but wish they'd picked "Where Do They Make Balloons"as that album's representatino.
I Can Hear You
"Recorded without electricity on a wax cylinder", according to Sarah Vowell's essay on the band, "I Can Hear You" manages to sound like vintage Giants. The music is so indistinct that the song's title is doubly ironic. (FAN TRIVIA TIME: Can you name two of the other songs TMBG recorded on a wax cylinder?)
Totally strange and great, "Spider" is a fine example of strange songmanship by the band. The whole song is disharmonic, sound-sampled and great. There's really no words I could give that would explain the song.
I Should Be Allowed To Think
Greatly catchy and subversive, the song "I Should Be Allowed To Think" is sort of a liberal musician's rallying cry. Although I would question who, exactly, is silencing the band's right to think, the song resonates with me, bringing up unpleasant memories of ignorant teachers and principals in High School.
A wonderful mess of a song, "Fingertips" entertains upon the first listen with its randomness, but quickly tires after repeated listens. Originally consisting of many separate tracks on, I believe, the "Apollo 18" album (designed to make the "shuffle" feature more interesting), "Fingertips" consists of too many things for a cohesive description. It's weird. I'm glad this band experiments.
She's Actual Size (New Live Version)
The first of three live songs, "She's Actual Size" is an interesting number, and gives you a good idea of TMBG's live show. It's also the longest song on the anthology by far, as it includes a fairly long interlude (featuring some great Dan Hickey drumming).
Catchy, but ultimately forgettable. I like the campy feeling of this swinging song, but it doesn't really work as a "sandwiched" song between two other great live songs.
Stormy Pinkness
Pretty short, but I really like this song. Its lyrics are simple and sentimental (two lyrical elements TMBG excel at), and the rather small audience adds greatly to the feel of the song. I've never heard so many people try to stomp on a rubber floor.
Exquisite Dead Guy
I know I said that I hated this song in my Disc 1 review, but I must confess that it's grown on me a little. I've stopped skipping it, but it's far from my favorite song. The verses are great, but the song relies way too much on its "bop bop bop bop" harmonizing.
Robot Parade (Adult Version)
By "adult version", they mean a version other than the one on their "No!" children's album. This is a fairly ridiculous attempt at heavy metal, but the robotic sound effects are truly mind-blowing.
Boat of Car
This song reminds me of the Violent Femmes for some reason (their creepy side). The Johnny Cash sound samples and simple melody are interesting.
Probably one of the better songs in this part of Disc 2, "S-E-X-X-Y" has a fairly insidious double meaning (but I'll leave it to you, the reader, to figure that out). It's a collaboration with Iggy Pop. I'm glad he still has work. It's got great musical elements, and fantastic violin work.
Number Three
One of the best attempt at a country song ever attempted by a non-country band, Ween notwithstanding. "Number Three" is ruthlessly self-mocking (the band exaggerates the country twangs and silly lyrics to ridiculous proportions). Country music haters may find this song grating.
The End of the Tour
The first of the really great melodic songs on this half of the album, "The End of the Tour" is supremely catchy and great. (Crikey, I'm running out of adjectives for my reviews.) I thoroughly enjoy this song each time I listen to it - I'll just leave it at that.
They Might Be Giants
Sort of their unofficial "theme song", this track is a very strange little disharmonic piece. The lyrics are very strange, but the sound-sampled interludes and identity of the song appeal it to me (in all honesty, though, it doesn't hold a candle to the theme songs done by fantastic group The Aquabats).
Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal
A great "little-guy-getting-screwed-over-by-corporate-authority" song, this track is about an aspiring musician who is destroyed by a corrupt disc jockey who takes his money and runs. The lyrics are pithy and simple: "I thought you said: 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch your record', and I thought you said we had a deal!" The repeating bells riff is great. I have to admire a band that uses so many instruments so effectively.
Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
Probably the catchiest song on Disc 2, this song makes absolutely no sense. (I just realized that I use the same format for all of my track reviews: "A song about [x, y, and z], [this song] is a. . ." Oh, well.) This song is a lyrical drug trip, despite the song's insistence that it is not.
Snowball in Hell
More great, simple musicianship. Great, subtle wordplay (too much to include here) seals this song. The long, sound-sampled interlude seems strangely necessary.
Purple Toupee
A wonderful, nostalgic mess of a song, "Purple Toupee" includes so much historical name-dropping and so many context-sensitive puns that it seals itself completely as a product of its time (watch the totally crazy music video if you can find the band's "Live in Brooklyn" DVD).
This song took a while to grow on me. The lyrics made no sense, the country-ish feel turned me off, and the constant reference to cows reminded me of "The Far Side". Now, I've come to love this song despite all of these things.

Who am I kidding? I love "The Far Side".
As I said earlier, the complete summary for this review, as well as Track Listings for Disc 1, can be found in review for Disc 1:

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Two-Headed Boy
November 17th 2005


Album Rating: 3.0

i found this one better than disc one

June 22nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

i love the lyrics to meet james endsore. "dig him up and shake his hand." that is they might be giants lyrics at their best right there. I also love hickey's solo on she's actual size, and the "adult version" of robot parade. great album. 4/5

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