Alphabet Soup

O, G, what's that I C? A handy guide to TMBG!

It's really not surprising that the members of They Might Be Giants have started releasing records geared toward children, considering how educational and creative their music has been over the past two-plus decades. Inspired by the kiddie theme found on TMBG's latest album, Here Come the ABCs, we present an encyclopedic history of the band -- arranged from A-Z, natch.

Accordion. John Linnell's instrument of choice on songs like "Ana Ng."

TMBG: If you thought Sesame Street was cool, get a load of these guys.
Miranda Penn Turin
TMBG: If you thought Sesame Street was cool, get a load of these guys.

Brooklyn. The NYC borough in which the band formed in the early 1980s.

College. The place where the band has always been the most popular, thanks to supportive radio stations and live gigs on campuses.

Dial-A-Song. When people called a phone number, they reached an answering machine on which the band posted new songs. This helped TMBG originally get a record deal with Bar/None in the mid-1980s.

Eyeglasses. The spectacles John Flansburgh is notorious for sporting.

Flood. The band's 1990 creative high-water mark that featured "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). The exhaustive and entertaining documentary about the band.

Hi, we're the Replacements." A lyric from a wriggling pop song that's one of the earliest instances of TMBG's cheeky humor -- since the band sounds nothing like the ramshackle 'Mats.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)." A Russian-tinged debate about the name of Turkey's famed city that the Four Lads first popularized in the 1950s.

James K. Polk. "Napoleon of the Stump.... our eleventh president," according to TMBG's titular song.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. A movie whose soundtrack features "Spiralling Shape."

Lincoln. The town in Massachusetts where Flansburgh and Linnell originally met as children; also the name of TMBG's second album.

Malcolm in the Middle. The TV show that uses "Boss of Me" as its theme song.

No! The band's first children's album, released in 2002, that poses questions like "Where do they make balloons?" and "Pisa has a leaning tower -- will it ever fall?"

Oblongs, The. A short-lived cartoon about a family "deformed by toxic waste" (according to www.imdb.com), whose theme song TMBG performed.

Particle Man. Beaten by a hateful Triangle Man, says a Flood song.

Quirky. Perhaps the most accurate adjective used to describe TMBG's fireworks-colorful palette of styles and instrumentation.

Restless Records.The label that released the 1998 live disc, Severe Tire Damage; also where the band fled after leaving Elektra after 1996's Factory Showroom.

Swingin' '60s. An era that the band conjured on its Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me spy-noir ditty, "Dr. Evil."

They Might Be Giants. The 1971 modern-day Sherlock Holmes tale from which TMBG took its moniker.

Unlimited, TMBG. The name of the eMusic.com service that distributed 1999's Long Tall Weekend -- the very first Internet-only album.

Vocal duties. Shared by Linnell (the nasally one) and Flansburgh (the deeper-voiced one).

Why Does the Sun Shine?" A textbook-like tune extolling the elemental composition of and virtues inherent within our star.

XTC. Quirky Brits who battled Adam Ant for new-wave supremacy in a song on Showroom.

Young Fresh Fellows. The band whose cassette the girlfriend in "Twisting" doesn't need back.

Zzzz. The sleepy state of being conjured on TMBG's album/book collaboration with artist Marcel Dzama, Bed, Bed, Bed.

 
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