John Flansburgh and John Linnell have known each other for nearly five decades, devoting 40 of those years to a musical outfit called They Might Be Giants. That’s a lot of music (23 studio albums!), including their best-known effort, 1990’s Flood, a smorgasbord of slanted pop songs driven by unconventional instrumentation (including the accordion and samples of Flansburgh’s kitchen sink and refrigerator being struck with a drumstick) and lyrical themes (“Birdhouse in Your Soul” is written from the perspective of a child’s night light and features the immortal lines, “My story’s infinite/Like the Longines Symphonette”).
Delayed a few years due to the pandemic, the duo is finally celebrating Flood’s 30th anniversary with a tour that will include most of the album’s 19 songs plus a smattering from the rest of their massive catalog.
“We weren’t really aware that this kind of ritual self-celebration thing was going to become such a strong current in rock music,” Flansburgh said in a recent interview with Big Issue. “But you know, we’re happy to celebrate ourselves. I’m just grateful that Flood is such a solid album to get behind. It’s got a lot of unusual things about it. It’s not just a bunch of bangers and a bunch of filler.”
Sure enough, a revisit of Flood reveals a record as weird and witty as ever. “Particle Man,” replete with its carnival-esque instrumentation, is a lighthearted singalong about four men with question- able intentions. “Your Racist Friend,” a rare straightforward expression of intent, relays an uncomfortable encounter with expected results (“This is where the party ends”). A playful cover of the novelty tune “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” sounds like a polka run amok, while “Whistling in the Dark” rides on Linnel’s typically affected vocal delivery and an accordion-driven arrangement accented by blaring horns. Tuneful dorkiness abounds, but that’s what set They Might Be Giants apart.
Word is the live show will include two sets of music as well as one request for the audience, per the boys’ website: “A note from John F: Can you believe it? It’s 2023 and everybody is still getting COVID. Know folks who got it last week? We do too! We got 1 request: wear a mask to our shows! Not a demand. Just a request. Just sayin.’ We need to keep our shows safe! Spread the good word! It’s gonna be a blast.”
They Might Be Giants plays Madison Theater at 8 p.m. March 25. Doors open at 7 p.m. Info: madisontheater.com.Below, watch They Might Be Giants' video for "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)."
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