Daft: They Might Be Giants: Flood

Can you be reincarnated as a bag of groceries? They Might Be Giants tackle the issues that really matter.

Q, March 1990
by Peter Kane

When the two Johns, Flansburgh and Linnell, first decided to try out their particular brand of rock on an unsuspecting world, busking for quarters along Brooklyn's East River seemed as good a place to start as any. An itchy guitar, however, a borrowed accordion, some backing tapes and a whole suitcase of the sort of tunes that don't quite seem to fit anywhere, no matter how you squint, are not the kind of raw materials to make Jon Bon Jovi lose any beauty sleep. Not for then the warm glow in their accountant's stomach brought on by stadiums stuffed to the gills and records off-loaded in their millions. These plainly were men destined for the less tangible satisfactions of "culthood."

Calling themselves They Might Be Giants was a pretty decent start (it's a largely forgotten George C. Scott film from the very early '70s) while their unique Dial-A-Song service was a smart piece of lateral thinking. But it was the power of MTV and their inventive, Devo-like videos that intrigued America sufficiently to convert the odd twosome into one of their favourite indie outfits. The British jury is still out on them but hopes, once more, run high with Flood, their third confection and also their major league debut.

Any fears that the move to bigger premises might mark a toning down of their idiosyncratic worldview should be immediately put aside, however. From the pure silliness of the opening Theme, through the gloriously flaky pop of "Birdhouse In Your Soul" and thence to a kitsch country ditty entitled "Lucky Ball and Chain" they remain, proudly, as daft as a pair of brushes. "Dead," for instance, crooned over a cabaret piano, nothing more, seems to suggest that reincarnation as a bag of groceries is not entirely out of the question, while "We Want a Rock" asserts categorically that "Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads". But you could take your pick from practically everything on offer. Only "Your Racist Friend" appears to mean what it says.

And just as the words glory in their built-in weirdness, so the tunes and the playing too are real Heath Robinson affairs with bits added on for the pure fun of it, full of homemade-sounding keyboards with just the odd flourish of colour. So "Hearing Aid" sports an incidental reggae rhythm as readily as "Twisting" is all '60s beat with cheesy organ motif while the casbah-rocking rendition of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" comes complete with gipsy violin without so much as a blink.

With 18 tracks to choose from and working soundly on the principle that if you don't like one, never mind, there'll be another along in a couple of minutes, Flood is as playful an entertainment as will be heard all year. It's safe to say there's no-one else quite like them.