New Faces to Watch

Cash Box, December 13, 1986
by Paul Iorio

"We're ready to take on Bruce head to head," jokes John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants. "Our next album is going to be a six-record box."

They Might Be Giants certainly have enough songs for a six-record set; the duo, consisting of Flansburgh and John Linnell, is so prolific one might think they are driven by some form of glandular disorder. Whatever the cause, the result is a tuneful, witty, and eccentric self-titled debut album on Bar/None Records. "We have nineteen songs on this album and they're all hits, nothing but hits," says Flansburgh. "We're waiting until each and every song charts before we release any more."

Chart success, though, may not be that far off for the duo. Not only have such magazines as People and Spin written them up, but their MTV video for "Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head" is on breakout rotation. "We were on MTV and they showed our video right after the new Springsteen video. Of course, that just illustrates the whole 'good boy/bad boy, Beatles/Rolling Stones' thing that everybody's talking about," deadpans Flansburgh.

Has all this high-level exposure gotten them stopped by fans in airports yet? "Well, the bag boy at the grocery store gives me a funny look every now and then," says Flansburgh. "But it might be because you didn't pay for your food," says Linnell.

If the two seem of have a telepathic level of rapport, that's because they've known each other since high school when they worked on the student newspaper together ("We also had a little traveling sideshow," quips Flansburgh). Linnell, 27, plays the accordion, Flansburgh, 26, plays the guitar, and they both write and sing the songs, accompanied by a tape loop. "Usually when we're getting mugged we find the most inspiring songs," says Flansburgh.

One thing is for certain, no one writes 'em like They Might Be Giants. "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes," "She's An Angel," "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," and "Absolutely Bill's Mood" are pop music with a performance-art twist: something like Ray Davies gone Soho by way of The Improv. But for all their experimental leanings (one song even features a guitar solo phoned in by a friend in North Carolina) this duo always keeps it accessible, catchy, and entertaining.

"I don't see us getting any more like a rock band than we already are," says Flansburgh. "I think we rock as hard as we want to and we can rock pretty hard. At the same time it wouldn't be so interesting if we were just a rock band. I think the thing that gives it an edge is that there's a visual aspect to the band that's pretty strong. When we do shows people really respond to the fact that it's not the same old stuff."

In concert, Flansburgh and Linnell use such stage props as masks and oversized cue cards with lyrics written on them: the latter indispensible for the audience sing-a-song on "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die." Would they have to change their show in order to play, say, Giants Stadium? "We'd have to change a little bit," says Linnell. "We'd have to get bigger props."

(Bar None Records: P.O. Box 1704, Main Post Office, Hoboken, N.J. 07030. Dial-A-Song Service: 718-387-6962.)