Oddball Originals

The Diamondback, February 15, 2012
by Warren Zhang

They Might Be Giants appear to be suffering through an identity crisis. In the last decade, the long-running band has dabbled extensively in children's music, releasing four kids' albums, including the back-to-back Here Come the 123s and Here Comes the Science.

Yet, their upcoming show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore is exclusive to over-14 audience members. TMBG co-founder John Linnell said this was a deliberate decision. The group's upcoming tour, promoting last year's Join Us, is a return to the grown-up fare that brought the band to fame.

"Given we've done a lot of kids' records and kids' shows, we wanted to be clear that we were doing a show for adults," Linnell said. "The material may or may not be appropriate for young children."

According to Linnell, the band's foray into children's music happened largely by accident.

"We didn't take it very seriously then as a career move," Linnell said. "I would say that we are at home doing the music for adults that we've done since 1983. That's really who we really are."

While Join Us certainly contains fewer playful jingles about the sun, the band's adult fare can't be described as ordinary. According to Linnell, the process of writing these insidiously catchy tunes involves much repetition.

"I spend a lot of time writing crappy songs and eventually some good idea appears in the midst of the bad ideas," he said. "And after all this time of writing songs, we're faced with the problem of repeating ourselves. It was never easy, and it's not getting easier."

In earlier shows, TMBG have found ways to bring some of their screwball sensibilities to the stage in the form of sock puppet shows or other little asides.

"It's about what John [Flansburgh, band co-founder] and I like, what we think is interesting," Linnell said. "I don't feel like we're personally that fascinating, but [the tour] to us is interesting, and it's based on what we like."

As of right now, Linnell remains unsure what their next project will be and whether it'll be another children's album or 14-plus rock effort.

"We've been alternating for the last ten years or so," he said. "We're going to keep doing all sorts of things."