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November 04, 1994 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-11-04

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Friday, November 4, 1994
emember, Giants walk the earth o

By JOSH HERRINGTON
For the past 11 years the combo of
John Flansberg and John Linnel -
otherwise known as They Might Be
Giants - has been churning out re-
markably original, clever pop music.
While "Flood," the album which certi-
fied the duo's niche in the alterna-pop
music world, went gold last month,
their latest album "John Henry" repre-
sents a new era for them. The band has
evolved into something they have never
been before: a band, in the traditional
sense, complete with real live percus-
sion and horn sections. When com-
bined with John and John's gleeful pop
hooks, the result is the richest, most
textured album they have put out to
date.
John Linnel, while relaxing in his
hometown of Brooklyn in between the
European and American legs of
TMBG's world tour, explained why
the band dropped the tape recorders
and replaced them with humans. "We
didn'treally plan it," Linnel explained.
"We got a band in the middle of our
(1992) tour just to see if it would
spruce up the live show, and then
after playing with the band for awhile,
it seemed like 'well, I guess this is
what we're doing now, so we'll make
a record with this band.' We defi-
nitely didn't think that hard about it in
advance."
Playing with so many talented mu-
sicians (Tony Maimone of Pere Ubu
fame and Brian Doherty of the Silos, to
name a couple) clearly have influenced
TMBG's music. Performers like Kurt
Hoffman, who was once a member of
TMBG, and longtime opening act
Brain Dewan, whom Linnel considers
"brilliant," and even the archetypal
"Loser" Beck, have all influenced
TMBG'spop products. Linnel is open
about the impact his fellow contempo-
raries have had inironingout TMBG's
sound, acknowledging that "everyone
has adifferentpicture of the world. It's
good to have more than one."
For Linnel, the first picture was of
theBeatles. Linnel's voice warms when
he recalls his first encounter with the
auteurs of pop. "I was three years old
when (the Beatles) came to America,"
he recalled. "I had an older brother
and sister who were tuned into the
fact that there was this totally new
band that had hit town. It was this big
event. I think we even thought they
looked different; their hair looked
totally weird, and that was kind of
exciting, ya know?" When Linnel
became a teenager he "got into other
stuff. Having older siblings really af-

fected the kind of music I was into. My
brother was in tune with things like
Frank Zappa that, tome, seemed really
sophisticated. I wanted to know more
about that stuff."
The seeds of pop that had been
planted early in Linnel's life finally
sprouted in 1983 when he got together
with John Flansberg to form TMBG, a
name lifted from an old science fiction
movie starring Charlton Heston and
JessicaLange; his only explanation for
the name was that "most of the bands
around had names like, you know, 'The
Pencils" or something, so at the time it
seemed like an interesting name to
have." Linnel attributes the music he
makes as a product of "the longer his-
tory of popular music. We like the
whole current of popular music that
was alongside rock music as that was
developing - that was still there for
adults who were not into rock. It's a
largely ignored genre ... there was a
whole industry of popular music in
the '60s that had nothing to do with
rock."
TMBG's major commercial suc-
cess came in 1990 with "Flood," the
seminal pop album which recently
went gold; amazing, considering the
relative obscurity of the band up until
that point. In spite of the obvious
honor which accompanies such an
award, Linnel admitted not really be-
ing able to make heads or tails of it.
"It's like, what do I do now? Well, I
sent (the award) to my dad. I just
couldn't imagine having it in my
house. It's like having a big framed
portrait of yourself or something like
that. I don't think I could live that
way."
Almost in response to the "what do
I do now" question enters their latest
album, "John Henry," which repre-
sents, literally and allegorically, "the
conflict between man and machine"
(although Linnel admitted that the
album, thematically speaking, has
nothing to do with the 19th century
folklore figure John Henry, who is
pitted against machine in a race to dig
a railroad tunnel). Compared with the
method of recording albums that
Linnel and Flansberg had adopted up
until this year, "John Henry" repre-
sents a profound change-recording
live tracks-making the album achieve
a semblance of rock while still feed-
ing off the fuel of their lively pop
music formula. "('John Henry') was
totally unusual for us," Linnel admit-
ted. "We've always done the thing
where you start with the kick-drum,
and you add the snaredrum, and so on.

We've always been more technologi-
cal about it. This was like the cavemen
gathered around,jamming together."
For the past couple of years, they
have indeedjammed in concert, prone
to such antics as spontaneous instru-
ment switching and responding to
crowd requests ranging from Lynard
Skynard tunes to "We are the World."
Linnel attributed some of this versa-
tility to the new band. "There's a lot
of great things about having a band.
As you can imagine, there's a lot of
potential for spontaneity. One of the
things that has helped out is that we
have hired musicians who are pretty
versatile. Everybody switches off their
instruments. Our trombonist plays the
tuba, Tony plays the ukulele, an so
on." In spite of their on-stage jubi-
lance, Linnel admitted to the greater
complexity of touring with an
upscaled outfit. "It's a trade-off.
There's some things we miss form
having a tape. Our show was more
compact. We did some of our early
tours in just one van. That was nice."
TMBG are playing this evening at
the State Theatre, an event which
prompted a question about venue pref-
erence: whether or not the band prefers
the hectic intimacy of a club or the
excessive elbow room of an audito-
rium, or perhaps even an, uh, arena.
"The funnest times we've had have
been in really little rooms with excited
crowds. We've done arenas, but we've
never quite done the 'stadium' show.
I'm sure that would be completely
weird. We've done some very large
festivals, and there was something
weird about that. We did this one in
D.C. that had some ridiculously high
number of people, and we could even
talk to the people in the back. We
were saying stuff like, 'we want to
dedicate this song to the guy in sec-
tion three that's like half a mile away.'
And we could see him waving, you
know?"
As to what is next for TMBG,
Linnel was vague: perhaps another
album with the band, perhaps a b-side
album, perhaps neither. Whatever it
may be, it is safe to say that it will be a
surprise, fresher and more original than
whatever preceeded it.
THEY MIGHT BE GiANTSplayed
the State Theatre in Detroit last
night. Frank Black wowed the
crowd with his incredible opening
acoustic set, and TMBG were great,
too. Sorry if you missed it.

0o

They Might Be Giants win the penant, They Might be Giants win the penant! Well, at least they should.

'Come' continues to explode on the music scene

Galleries offer much in November 0
EXHIBIT

COME
Continued from page 7
The still-unnamed group booked
their first show soon after"just to see
what would happen," Brokaw said.
And yes, their name means exactly
what you think it means. Explained
Brokaw, "The guy who was booking
the show said that we had to have a
name by 11 o'clock or he would make
up one for us." Suggestions flew, re-
inembered Brokaw. "It started get-
ting really obscene. Finally, Thalia
said, 'Why don't we just call it
Come?"'

Regular gigs and the 1992 release
of their "Fast Piss Blues" Matador
single sparked a flurry of rock maga-
zine articles touting Come as The
Next Big Thing. Their debut LP
"Eleven:Eleven" was met with ac-
claim and some blanched faces.
Melody Maker described the album
as the sound of "waking up on an
operating table in the middle of your
own autopsy." And that was a com-
pliment.
"Don't Ask" remains in the same
pulsing vein as the previous album,
but with a richer studio sound. "We

weren't really afraid of (the new
record) being compared to
'Eleven:Eleven.' That was avery live-
sounding record. We hardly used over-
dubs," Brokaw remarked. "We wanted
this one to sound more like an album
than a live recording. The only trepi-
dation we had going in was that the
group of songs we brought to record
were so much more varied this time.
We weren't quite sure how they would
fit together."
The results are brilliantly terse,
intense clips of relationship hell.
"Don't you dare try to walk away
from my loving fists," Zedek
sneeringly commands over Brokaw's
staggering guitar on the song "Poi-
son." On "Mercury Falls." she des-
perately details, "Every time we say
next time/ Every year we say next
year/ Watch each other for a sign/

And spend another winter here ...
don't you get sick alone?" When she
finally begs, "Let's get lost, not like
the last time when we got found,"
Come has convinced you that there's
nowhere to run to, because there's no
way out.
Not the easiest set to sell to the
fans of Dinosaur Jr., with whom Come
is touring this fall. "It's tough to say,"
acknowledged Brokaw, whether Di-
nosaur fans will swallow Come's bit-
ter pill. "We've opened for Dinosaur
before ... some people get it, some
don't. This record has some more up
tempo songs. That will help, I hope."
Hope ... now there's a novel idea.
COME plays with Juned and
headliner Dinosaur Jr. at the State
Theater in Detroit tonight at 8p.m.
Tickets are $15.50 through
Ticketmaster. Call (313) 645-6666.

wi

Cl /

Fall Lessons
Every Sunday Night
Main Dance Room, CCRB
7:00pm Beginning Lessons
8:00pm General Dancing
Everybody is welcome!
No partner necessary!
It's Free!
There is no pre-registration.
Just show up at the beginning of
the lessons whenever you lke.
Dress is casual
For More Information Call: 663-9213
* Student ID or users pass needed to enter CCRB

Continued from page 6
"Where's Waldo?" I believe the
more pertinent question is "Where is
the Waldo exhibit?" This exhibit was
a bit disappointing considering the
monumental icon that Sir Waldo is,
but it may be more fun for the kids.
Runs through December.
Call 995-5439 for more informa-
tion.
Bentley Historical Library
"The Art of Football: 1894-1994,
100 Years of Football Programs, Post-
ers and Ephemera" has been going for
awhile now, but this exhibit should be
of interest to both sports fans and pop
culture buffs. Exhibit includes more
than 750 programs from University
football games and examines the
graphic design, themes and patterns
in program cover art. Runs through
November 30.
Call 764-3482 for more informa-
tion.
Alexa Lee Gallery
"Lincoln Schatz: Sculpture, Draw-
ings, Prints" This abstract sculptor
constructs works of welded steel pro-
duces an industrial but human feel.
Schatz creates gritty drawings as well.
Runs through November 11.
"Mary Gillis: Paintings and Sculp-
ture" This Michigan based artist works
with large and abstract mixed media
paintings and has recently begun
sculpting in the same vein. Begins
November 18 and runs through De-
cember 23.
Call 663-8800 for more informa-
tion.

Matrix Gallery
"Lyric" is an exhibition of sculp-
ture and collage by Amy Hanks, a
graduate student at the University Art
School. The work will explore how
myth is created through random bits
of information we receive every day.
Opens November 18 and runs through
December 4.
Call 663-7775 for more informa-
tion.
The Toledo Museum of Art
"Visiones del Pueblo, the Folk Art
of Latin America" includes 275 works
of the Latin American culture that
hopes to give insights into Latin
American society from the 16th cen-
tury to the present day. Runs through
January 15.
Call (419) 255-8000 for more in-
formation.

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