BMOWP Classic Album – Flood

Today, I rediscovered Flood.

BMOWP Classic Album

Flood by They Might Be Giants

It’s not that I forgot it existed – it’s just that I forgot I’d liked it. I rediscovered it in a very specific way: I plugged the CD in, turned up the volume, and sang along with “Birdhouse In Your Soul” as loud as I could. In doing this, I discovered that, after at least a decade since last listen, I still knew all the words.

All of them.

FloodThis is by far the most embarrassing thing I’ve done this year.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, it’s not cool to like They Might Be Giants. Aside for a brief time in the early 90s, it’s never been cool to like They Might Be Giants. In fact, during that brief time it was only tolerated – it was an appreciated side-route that ultimately ended in a dead end, a funny little hobby disc on the level of “Detachable Penis” by King Missile.

Somewhere along the line, TMBG realized this. Fortunately for them, they had a built in talent for creating catchy and obscenely childish songs – perfect for, you know, writing children’s albums. Which is the path they’re headed down now – children’s artists with a fruitful background in alternarock.

However, during the Brief Time of Tolerance, TMBG put out two fantastic albums: Flood and Apollo 18. Flood is the most memorable, easily lifted by some of the band’s most recognizable songs – the aforementioned “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Particle Man,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”.

After that, Flood seems pretty light – you’ve got the songs that everyone knows, and you’ve got a bunch of filler. Yet, that’s not the case. As I’d listen to each song, I’d remember the hooks, the lyrics and the subtle humor that, during a career as “gifted and misunderstood student,” I naturally latched on to. It was a mix of intelligent lyrical talent, goofy-ass music and pop sensibilities.

Amazingly, Flood tackles some pretty deep subjects, and does so in a way you wouldn’t expect – not through quirky wordsmithing but through pointed questions and statements, poignant in their simplicity. “Dead” takes a look at the legacy of death (“Now it’s over I’m dead and I haven’t done anything that I want”). “My Racist Friend” highlights the embarrassment of being associated with an overly bigoted friend (“Out from the kitchen to the bedroom to the hallway/Your friend apologizes, he could see it my way/He let the contents of the bottle do the thinking/Can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding”). “Lucky Ball and Chain” laments the loss of a long-time love (“Confidentially/I never had much pride/But now I rock a bar stool/and I drink for two/just pondering this time bomb in my mind”).

But it’s not all somber; the serious messages aren’t as common as, say, round-about lyrics about science. And that’s okay with me – the entire legend of TMBG is built upon songs that are embarrassingly catchy. Catchy to a fault, almost – so good that it’s impossible to take them seriously. They’re pure pop boiled down to the molecular level: short, funny parodies of real music.

Here’s the thing: They Might Be Giants is a fun band. Seriously fun. Foot-stomping, geek-inducing, science-based dorky fun. No, it’s not cool to like them. But it wasn’t cool to like chemistry either, and those people are making a good living being eggheads.

If only listening to They Might Be Giants was equitable to learning chemistry on a professional level.

To which I say, “Minimum Wage!”


This was lovingly handwritten on May 20th, 2008