They Might Be Giants Then: The Earlier Years

[Restless; 1997]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: pop rock, quirky pop
Others: Fountains of Wayne, Camper van Beethoven, Ween

Then: The Earlier Years comprises They Might Be Giants' first three releases, along with many B-Sides. This review will take on each release by 

The '80's were not a proud time in the history of music. Newly discovered synthesizing technologies have dated much of the music produced from the decade to an unlistenable degree. Most of the stuff on the charts has been reduced to laughable camp. While '60s and '70s music still retains much of its integrity, the same can't be said for the maligned '80s. But wait! There are some bright spots to be found. In addition to pioneers like XTC and My Bloody Valentine, geek rockers They Might Be Giants got their start in the mid-80's. 1986's self-titled album is 19 tracks long, and sports the mix-tape favorite "She's an Angel", in addition to their MTV debut "Don't Let's Start". Quirky, lovable songs run the length of this album -- their most off-the-wall release.

LINCOLN (1988)
Their second album, Lincoln, is arguably their best release. Eighteen tracks of the goofy, the weird, and the just-plain fun comprise the album created by the two Johns; again armed with guitar, keyboards, an accordion, and a drum machine. The album sounds surprisingly fresh, even after 13 years. In addition to many others, opening cut "Ana Ng" remains a fan favorite, as well as the second track, "Cowtown". Lincoln is slightly more refined than its predecessor, and while the songs are still weird, their lengths make them feel a bit more like actual songs (though they're still all around 2:00).

MISCELLANEOUS T and other included bonus tracks
The rest of the music on this 2-CD set is a mixed bag, like most bands' bonus tracks. There are true early gems like "We're the Replacements", "The Famous Polka", and "Now That I Have Everything". And there are throwaway outtakes like "Fake Out in Buenos Aires". Whatever you think, it's nice to have this stuff immortalized on plastic.

Forgive the long-winded re-cap, but this is a LOT of music. Fortunately, it's only about $20-25, and anyone with an interest in the band should pick this up at the first opportunity. I guess the '80s weren't so bad, after all.

1. Everything Right Is Wrong Again
2. Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head
3. Number Three
4. Don't Let's Start
5. Hide Away Folk Family
6. 32 Footsteps
7. Toddler Hiway
8. Rabid Child
9. Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes
10. (She Was A) Hotel Detective
11. She's an Angel
12. Youth Culture Killed My Dog
13. Boat of Car
14. Absolutely Bill's Mood
15. Chess Piece Face
16. I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die
17. Alienation's for the Rich
18. The Day
19. Rhythm Section Want Ad
20. We're the Replacements
21. When It Rains It Snows
22. The Famous Polka

24. For Science
25. The Biggest One
26. Kiss Me, Son of God [Alternate Version]
27. Mr. Klaw
28. Critic Intro
29. Now That I Have Everything [*]
30. Mainstream U.S.A. [*]
31. Fake Out in Buenos Aires [*]
32. Greek #3 [*]
33. I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die [*]
34. I'm Def [*]
35. Don't Let's Start [*/demo version]
36. '85 Radio Special Thank You [*]
37. Ana Ng
38. Cowtown
39. Lie Still, Little Bottle
40. Purple Toupee
41. Cage & Aquarium
42. Where Your Eyes Don't Go
43. Piece of Dirt
44. Mr. Me
45. Pencil Rain
46. The World's Address
47. I've Got a Match
48. Santa's Beard
49. You'll Miss Me
50. They'll Need a Crane
51. Shoehorn With Teeth
52. Stand on Your Own Head
53. Snowball in Hell
54. Kiss Me, Son of God
55. Hello Radio
56. It's Not My Birthday
57. I'll Sink Manhattan
58. Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
59. World's Address [Joshua Fried Remix]
60. Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a..

61. The Lady Is a Tramp
62. Birds Fly
63. Kitten Intro [*]
64. Weep Day [*]
65. Big Big Whoredom [*]
66. I'm Getting Sentimental over You [*]
67. Become a Robot [*]
68. Which Describes How You're Feeling [*]
69. Swing Is a Word [*]
70. Doris Cunningham [*]
71. Counterfeit Fake [*]
72. Schoolchildren Singing "Particle Man" [*]

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