Get ur geek on, fuckers! (Use of ‘fuckers!’ at the end of brief opening sentence copyright of Jeff Giles Inc. All rights reserved.)
First off, if you’re a fan of They Might Be Giants but have not yet bought their most recent children’s album Here Come the 123s, what the hell ya waitin’ fer? It’s awesome. Seriously, even if you don’t have kids, get it for the two “Seven” songs alone.
History points to Flood, They Might Be Giants’ 1990 major label debut, as their halcyon moment, and while that’s true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is that many fans were rather upset with the Johns for the slick production they employed on the album, not to mention a sillier lyrical approach. (The band corrected this “mistake” on their next album, 1992’s Apollo 18, and to no one’s surprise, it sold a fraction of the copies that Flood sold.) For many, however, this was their introduction to the band, and the newcomers didn’t mind the new style. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one-two punch than “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and their cover of the Four Lads tune “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” (One-two-three punch if you count “Particle Man.”) “Birdhouse” was the MTV favorite, but the band tried something different with the next single. What would be a funny thing to do with a fiddle-heavy cover of a song from the ‘50s?
The answer: let a couple hip-hop DJs remix it.
Oh, those silly remixers and their dialogue sampling. It’s all Prince Paul’s fault, you know. Once De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising became a hit, everyone started trying to out-skit their peers. Not even Fine Young Cannibals records were exempt from Prince Paul’s silliness. (Check out his mix of “Good Thing,” if you can find it.) And speaking of De La Soul, the signature drum beat from “Me, Myself and I” – which surely has roots in a soul song from the ‘70s that I’m not aware of – makes frequent appearances here, as does Janet Jackson’s “edit” from Shep Pettibone’s mixes of “Miss You Much.” And, is that…Kraftwerk? Yep, “The Robots” is here, too. Does it make sense? Not really, but that’s rather fitting in the TMBG universe, isn’t it? Besides, as odd as this mix is, it’s as good as They Might Be Giants remixes got, as anyone who heard those spacey mixes of “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” can attest.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, we present the Tiny Toons video for “Istanbul,” which is about as genius a collaboration as you’re likely to find. Man, how did we not see these children’s albums coming from a mile away?