My iPod #562: They Might Be Giants – I Can Hear You

I can’t vividly describe the first time I heard ‘I Can Hear You’. There was no situation I found myself in life where the song was playing on the radio and felt a wave of emotion. It just happened when I listened to Factory Showroom in full in 2010 or so. I can’t remember how I felt about the song on that first listen, though revisits to it revealed another noteworthy gem of the group’s within their illustrious discography.

The performance of ‘I Can Hear You’ was recorded at the Edison Historic Site in New Jersey on wax cylinder alongside three other songs on 27th April 1996, explaining the low audio quality of the track. Its thin sound also makes it quite hard to decipher what instruments are being played on it. All these years I never thought there was a bass being played in it, yet close listening made it much clearer. It also has quite a simple yet punchy rhythm to it which makes it that much enjoyable to hear.

The lyrics are sets of dialogue from other low-quality transmissions that you may come across in daily life, whether it be from a passenger in a plane calling a close friend from the sky to those intercom towers you order your food from at a fast-food drive-through. There’s a sad feeling I get from this song, I can’t explain it. There’s something about the sound of it and its cyclical nature – the ‘chorus’ at the beginning of the song comes back around at the end – that sometimes gets to me. It’s far from being one of the band’s best songs. Though I enjoy it a lot. Good tune.

The band replicated the recording process of the song as part of a Millennium special of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in 1999. This version is just as good, if not probably better, given some string flourishes that enhance its effect.

My iPod #346: They Might Be Giants – Exquisite Dead Guy

“Exquisite Dead Guy” is a weird song. It’s weirdly mysterious and dramatic at the same time even though not a lot happens in it. The only overdubs present are those on Linnell’s voice, and apart from that there some cellos, a bass and drums for most of its duration. As a result the track sounds a bit empty, always feeling like something additional needs to be added. But I like it like that. Maybe that’s what attracted me to it.

There are some thories about the ‘exquisite dead guy’ in question being Jesus Christ, and the ascending ‘ba-da-ba’ vocal line is meant to represent Morse code. Those things go way over my head. The song is one ‘of admiration of a departed hero‘, so that’s what I’ll go ahead and see it as.

It’s quite the unconventional track. If the aforementioned ‘ba-da-ba’ scat vocals are the chorus, then those make up the majority of the two minutes the song lasts for. And when those stop Linnell, in a low register, sings about seeing this dead man wherever he goes. Things become surprisingly introspective during the middle part, but the song then returns to repeat the vocal line twice more before coming to an abrupt end.

On a side note, the ‘E’ section finishes tomorrow. Time has flown. What song is next? Wait and see.

My iPod #90: They Might Be Giants – The Bells Are Ringing

 

Hey everyone.

Again, I didn’t have time to make a post yesterday. Well I did, but I was too tired. I went paintballing you see. ‘Twas my first time too. I knew it would be painful, and it was my first experience of being shot at with something. It wasn’t too bad. It was much better than I thought it would be. The paint balls do sting upon contact, and I’ve got a few bruises here and there. I’m fine though. It was all good fun.

This is the first of the two I’ll do today. So here’s another by a favourite band of mine. Yeah, TMBG.

“The Bells Are Ringing” is the final track on the band’s last album from Elektra Records. “Factory Showroom” is the album’s name.

I first heard the song due to the LAUNCHcast radio/website that Yahoo! owned years ago, it came up randomly one of the genre-assorted radios that were available. I heard it that one time, and so forgot about it pretty quickly. YouTube didn’t exist that time, so to listen to a song in full for free on the Internet was a pretty hard thing to do.

I’m not a Malcolm in the Middle fan – I’ve never really watched the show before – but this song also featured in one episode called ‘Christmas’. For that, I just assumed that the song was a Christmas tune, but that’s only because of the mentioning of bells. Bells are something that are common at Christmas time, right? It’s doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas though. The subject of the song, in my opinion, is about this fad that’s caught on by everyone, with the fad being represented as the bells in the song. The bridge brings light upon ‘a girl with cotton in her ears’ who is oblivious to it, but people go on about it and then begins to appreciate it. It’s got a real ‘1984’ theme about it.

At the end of the song, everybody’s happy and those ‘bells’ (which are sung) keep on ringing amongst an increasing volume in marching drums.

I think it’s a happy song, but with They Might Be Giants I can never really be sure.

Coming back soon.

Jamie.