Did you know that alt-rock group They Might Be Giants has released three albums of children’s music? It’s true!
If you’re not familiar with They Might be Giants (or TMGB, as they are commonly known), they’re known for quirky songs like the Malcolm in the Middle theme “Boss of Me”, as well as the nerd-rock staples “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, “Particle Man”, and “Put a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul”.
The pair originally started as an unaccompanied duo, with John Flansburgh on guitar, John Linnell on accordion/keyboards, with the pair sharing vocal duties, and only a drum machine to back them. They have since expanded their unofficial lineup to include a full band for live shows.
Their iconoclastic pop has always appealed to children. In fact, the ’90s Warner Brothers cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures licensed “Istanbul” and “Particle Man” and created what were essentially music videos for the songs, featuring characters from the show acting out narrative and interpretive sketches based on the songs’ lyrics. Also, TMBG’s popular cover of the ’50s educational song “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)”, which became a favorite in live shows, further solidified the notion that they could be both entertaining and educational.
With that in mind, it doesn’t seem at all strange that The Two Johns (as they are also known) would make the jump into making music directly intended for children. Their three (thematically titled) albums, Here Come The ABCs (2005), Here Come The 123s (2008), and Here Comes Science (2009) feature whimsical and amusing songs presented from a unique perspective that could only originate from They Might Be Giants. After all, this is the group that once sung, in “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” (Lincoln, 1988), “Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of”. Sound bizarre? Consider it in the context that they are referring to scientists’ assertion that parts of the human brain remain unused, and then read it again!
They Might Be Giants continue to tour tirelessly, often doing 2 shows a day, which is virtually unheard of from any other popular group. The reason for this is that they do afternoon “matinee” shows, intended for parents and children to attend, as well as an evening show for performing the rest of their material.
Looking for some fun music to listen to over the summer that is educational as well? Check out They Might Be Giants!