#581: They Might Be Giants – I Should Be Allowed to Think

Happy new year everybody! 21 days in…. I’m sorry, but I’m now officially a working man. I just haven’t had the time to get back into this. Well, there have been weekends obviously…. but I just haven’t had the inspiration and energy to write. 10am-6pm is a long day, I tell you! I’ll try and get back to the once a week thing on here. Emphasis on ‘try’. Though it will more than likely be a sporadic post here and there.

And so the first track of 2018 is one by They Might Be Giants, who coincidentally just released their 20th(!) album entitled I Like Fun on Friday. Haven’t heard the whole thing yet apart from its title track and ‘I Left My Body‘. I probably should. I leave you a link to its iTunes page where you can buy it for a reasonable price.

‘I Should Be Allowed to Think’ is on the band’s fifth album John Henry, released way back in 1994. Their longest album by a mile, almost an hour in length, it was the first where they performed as a full band with bass guitar and percussion backing John Linnell and John Flansburgh. Thinking on it, I personally see it as their way of showing that they were still able to provide their usual versatility and unique style of songwriting even without their drum machines and backing tapes of the past.

Like many other of the group’s songs, it’s told from a viewpoint which you can look at in two ways… You can listen to the narrator and take their points at face value… or they’re lying and something else is up. Knowing They Might Be Giants, it’s usually the latter. This narrator in particular feels injustice from seeing these rubbish bands advertised anywhere, and sees this as reason to say whatever they want and have their ideas heard by anybody – no matter how stupid they may be. They feel as if there’s this big conspiracy against them, when really they’re probably just thinking about it a bit too much.

This is a great song, another mainly penned by John Linnell though Flansburgh sings in the bridge. I do find myself humming along to its bass line when hearing it, particularly the second half of the chorus. Fair play to Tony Maimone, who plays the bass a fair few of the songs on John Henry. It’s a standard rock song I would say, although it’s not really because it’s They Might Be Giants. There’s always something a bit different when it comes to them. In a good way.

‘I Should Be Allowed’ was recorded on the band’s home equipment and could be listened to on the phone through their Dial-a-Song service before the song was officially released. Thanks to the Internet, that demo version can be heard all the time. It is below.

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#580: Ween – I Saw Gener Cryin’ in His Sleep

Not a very festive or momentous song for the coming new year, I know. But these things aren’t planned. I just do whatever song is next on my phone. And on this New Year’s Eve the track is ‘I Saw Gener Cryin’ in His Sleep’, the thirteenth track on Ween’s major-label debut Pure Guava.

For any Ween fan reading (quite unlikely) wondering where I would place Pure Guava in my favourite albums of the band, I’ll say to you that it probably isn’t in my top five of theirs. To me it just feels like The Pod Part 2, though with less songs and… a bigger sound to it maybe? There’s a larger emphasis on grooves and the drums on Guava, but The Pod in itself is just a lot more interesting and has a lot more variety – no matter how out there it is. I only have four songs from Guava on my phone and for some reason ‘I Saw Gener’, which I feel a lot of people would probably skip over after a while, popped out to me on that first album listen in 2015 or so.

I guess it’s because Ween are known for being this silly band who make a lot of silly stuff (even though their music is actually amazing and you should listen to anything of theirs as soon as you can) and this song details an instance where things aren’t as they seem. Dean Ween – real name Mickey Melchiondo, affectionately known as Deaner by Ween fans – sings about seeing bandmate Gene Ween crying in his sleep and offers some advice to help him through bad times. It’s all a bit heavy.

However, it’s shoddily recorded and set to upbeat, bouncy music which completely overshadows the downbeat lyricism. The drum machines skip out of time and some points, the drum machine cymbals thrash about wildly, there’s some piercing feedback after the first chorus. It’s a great listen. It makes it so funny, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s so conflicting. But that’s the beauty of many a Ween song.

That’s the end of 2017. Hard to believe I revived this back in August when I was stuck at home relentlessly searching for jobs online. Now I have one. I start next week. Hopefully this is the start of something special. Will see you in 2018. Many more songs to come.

#579: They Might Be Giants – I Palindrome I

I may or may not have mentioned that They Might Be Giants are one of my favourite musical acts bar none. I enjoy a large majority of their songs and many of their albums hit that sweet spot. I wrote my dissertation on them that’s how much I find their material so interesting. I’ve made many a post about their songs in the past, and there are many more to come in the future. Surely I must have said why I enjoy them so much and how much their music means to me and how they came into my life by chance. I can trust you to look back for me.

‘I Palindrome I’ can be found on Apollo 18, the fourth album by Brooklyn alt-rock band They Might Be Giants. Another display of infectious melodies and witty lyricism packed into just over two minutes, the John Linnell written composition kicks in straight after the abrupt ending of Flansburgh’s ‘Dig My Grave‘ which starts the album off.

I don’t really know what to say about this track. I know I like it. It’s not even one of my favourites from the album, though it is in general for many a fan of the band. But every time Linnell comes in with that “Someday Mother will die and I get the money” line with the peppy rhythm and guitars behind him, I’m always singing along. He and Flansburgh are simply great at writing a sequence of notes that are meant to be sung, I can’t say much else.

Here are a few clever/funny things about the track that could interest you:

It is 2:22 minutes long – a numerical palindrome.
John Flansburgh sings two palindromes at various points in the track – Seek ’em out.
The bridge is a form of antimetabole…. quite the fancy word.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

#578: My Bloody Valentine – I Only Said

Who d’ya think of when you see/hear the word ‘shoegaze’? ‘My Bloody Valentine’, right? ‘Loveless‘, eh? Yeah, I think that’s pretty much how it goes. The 1991 album by the Irish band has been universally loved by many for almost thirty years for essentially laying down the shoegaze genre foundation, influencing thousands of bands that have formed under its wake.

I didn’t listen to it until about four years ago, I guess. Clearly it didn’t leave so much of a mark on me at the time, but I kept it on my iTunes library so I must have thought something was cool about it. It was a few months back that I decided to listen to it in full again and I can confirm that it’s definitely a 10 outta 10. First time listeners will probably categorise it as a bunch of noise. And it is. That’s very much true. But there are some brilliant melodies under that noise. Melodies that repeat and repeat endlessly until they remain in the subconscious and you start humming them in the shower unexpectedly on some days. This applies to today’s song, ‘I Only Said’, the sixth track on Loveless.

Now another thing about the tracks on the album is that a lot of the lyrics are indecipherable. There are a lot of lyrics site which provide an approximate estimation of what might be said in the music, though the band have never confirmed anything. I don’t know what’s being sung in this track; I normally just make sounds that are in tune with the vocals. To me, it’s all about the instrumentation. The wailing stream-train whistle like guitars are at the forefront of the mix, relentlessly blaring throughout the track and covering the vocals before that zippy (guitar/keyboard/wtf?) riff comes in. There are probably about three verses in this whole thing, and then the track just goes on and on and on and on….. I’ve been in a shower with this song on and wondered just how long the outro goes on for. It goes on for a long time. You just get lost in it. It’s glorious stuff.

#577: The Beatles – I Need You

It was the sixteenth anniversary of George Harrison’s passing this last week, so it’s very fitting that today’s song is one by the singer/guitarist/overall cool guy that he wrote during those hectic years when he was in The Beatles. ‘I Need You’ was the second Harrison-written composition to make its way onto a Beatles album, appearing on the group’s fifth album, Help!, in 1965.

His first try ‘Don’t Bother Me‘ made its way onto With the Beatles, which Harrison more or less described as an exercise to test whether he could actually write a song. It wasn’t too bad. But of course with John Lennon and Paul McCartney writing their stuff, it was always hard to get a word in. Another song of his entitled ‘You Know What to Do’ was worked on in 1964, though no one seemingly liked it….. It would be two years until Harrison would get his own song on a Beatles album. On Help! he got two, along with ‘You Like Me Too Much’. Because Apple are a bunch o’tight poops I can’t link those songs for ya, but you can find ’em yourselves.

I like ‘I Need You’. Simply another love song that The Beatles were so good at doing in that Beatlemania phase. It’s a track of thoughts and feelings when a relationship ends and you’re just left with the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s not emotionally heavy at all. It’s all upbeat. Has a simple melody that doesn’t take too long to remember. That volume pedal guitar is possibly the musical highlight of it all as it echoes Harrison’s lines. It feels like a brisk bike ride in a park. It’s very easygoing. It’s always good to here George’s voice once in a while.

#576: The Beach Boys – I Know There’s an Answer

Hey everybody. Been a while since the last post…. I dunno… Just been lacking in motivation recently. With all this music you’d think I’d have stuff to say all the time, and at a consistent rate too. Sometimes I have to really be into it to even open WordPress up. It’s all good today though. Also, I graduated this week. Tuesday to be exact. The ceremony was great, but if it wasn’t clear that I had finished university since I moved out in June it definitely is now. And it’s all slowly setting in. Quietly catching up. An existential crisis looms. So that’s what’s up with me.

The last post on here was another song by The Beach Boys, I know. That’s just the way it’s sorted on my phone, can’t to anything about it. ‘Tis a fine one though, to be sure.

‘I Know There’s an Answer’ is the ninth song on the group’s seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds, and again showcases Brian Wilson’s prodigious musicality with a soundscape of woodwind, horns and booming percussion. Originally the track was written as ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, in reaction to the effects that Brian Wilson – and many, many others in those times – would experience when taking LSD. I’ll put that version down below.

Not being one to partake in those activities, Wilson’s bandmate and cousin Mike Love objected to the song’s drug references and suggested that its title and some lyrics be changed. ‘Ego’ became ‘Answer’ and the beat goes on. I do prefer ‘Answer’ all the way. Something about it just sounds a lot fuller. The vocals in particular. Love sings the first line of the song, Al Jardine sings the following lines, and then Wilson takes on the track’s main refrain. It’s a very cool delivery. Not only do all three members sound like the same person, but I particularly dig how the vocals climb from Love’s trademark low voice to Wilson’s higher key. The instrumentation behind them builds and builds to kinda release itself during the chorus too. It’s very well done. Quite cathartic in some ways. Other things to note when listening is that bass harmonica solo and when, during the song’s fade out, things seem to start speeding up – though it’s just someone getting a bit too eager on a tambourine…… Oh, and a chord on a banjo is played earlier than it should be at one point too. That’s enough.

Below is ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, and if you want to observe just how the song was produced there’s a little making of video too.

#575: The Beach Boys – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

You won’t find a lot of Beach Boys on my playlist. I have written a post about two of their songs before; those that I’ve yet to come to can all be listened to on the album Pet Sounds. Gotta love that album, very much a milestone in popular music.

At a time when artists were creating some far out music in the 60s, breaking boundaries and going an extra mile in terms of their sound and production, The Beach Boys – led by musical genius Brian Wilson – were drifting away from their usual surf-pop style and into a more grandiose and symphonic soundscape. People weren’t ready for that change. Not even a few of the group’s members themselves, which really got Brian Wilson down and continued to do so until he had a bit of a breakdown due to drugs and intense pressure. It was clear that something massive was happening, though why couldn’t anyone else see it?

That’s really what today’s track is about. Not solely about Wilson himself (well, obviously it is in a way), but for anyone who feel their ideas are to advanced for their peers to understand, are frustrated by the situation, and think that in another time their work would be appreciated. Quite the sticky subject. A very universal one too, I’m sure.

Took me a while to actually get into this track. It’s the most recent one from the album I decided to put on my phone. When I first listened to Pet Sounds the whole way through and proceeded to again a further few times, ‘These Times’ would start and I’d really wait for it to finish instead of really listening to its message and melodies. That was a mistake. I realised that, just like (almost) every other song on there, you give enough time to it and it slowly seeps into your mind. You’ve got the tremendous vocal group that overlap in that build-up to the chorus, and the instrumentation provided by The Wrecking Crew is perfect to a tee. And all of it was constructed by that expansive mind Brian Wilson possessed. Very admirable. Quite scary too.