Musicians in the Middle

U.S. News & World Report, February 19, 2001
by Holly J. Morris

The taunting playground anthem "Boss of Me" from Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle is a radio hit. But band They Might Be Giants is no one-hit wonder. Rather, they're a no-hit wonder. After 15 years, the Brooklyn-based indie rock band has won zealous fans but never Top 40 success till now. But the imaginative duo's whimsical melodies, about reincarnated groceries, hypnotic bells, and birdhouses in one's soul, have inspired intense loyalty that's paying off. Now that members John Flansburgh and John Linnell are 40 and 41, fans have grown up and grown powerful, like Malcolm creator Linwood Boomer.

Each episode of Malcolm in the Middle is a soundscape of TMBG music, with about 20 original pieces, most a minute or less in length. "The father, Hal, has this kind of music that's like 'Sing Sing Sing' by the Andrews Sisters," says Flansburgh. Dewey, the youngest, has "psychedelic" music, "because he's a little kid, but he's in his own dream world."

TMBG's first kids' album, No!, comes out later this year, with songs like "John Lee Supertaster," about a guy who's ultrasensitive to flavor. Though Linnell has a child, when they recorded the album "we didn't have a lot of parenting experience," says Flansburgh. "But we remember being children very well."

TMBG posts songs on their answering machine. Call Dial-A-Song at (718) 387-6962, or visit