Thursday, January 15, 2009

37 Greatest Albums: They Might Be Giants - 'No!'

This is my favorite They Might Be Giants album and not just because John Linnell was working on it while renting out my ex-wife's basement in the condo I barely lived in but bought with her.

Late '90's Brooklyn. Prospect Park is quickly becoming Baby Central and I am helping it along. My son is almost two and the light of my life. Which is dark otherwise.

We'd signed the papers on the condo simultaneously discussing divorce. When we were getting ready to move in, I packed my things separately and almost got my own place. After a few fitful unhappy months in the condo, I got a basement apartment right around the corner and started the new deal.

Her family are notorious for buying property and then completely redoing it. This first floor brownstone had a gigantic unfinished basement which her brother, father, and mother transformed into a nicely lit railroad apartment, only with no kitchen or shower. Bathroom.

She put out a hand written cardboard sign on her front stoop advertising a studio for rent for an artist. I was skeptical. When I am skeptical of her she is usually right. And vice-versa. Which is why we are much better off divorced. A mere 15 minutes later a nice guy stopped by and inquired after the space. It was John Linnell.

He lived in the building next door and needed a work space. He was installed within a week and the lovely sounds of They Might Be Giants and John Linnell would often waft up into the kitchen as I made my son a PBJ while waiting for his mom to get back from work. Then I'd trudge over to my own basement and record some strange concoction of my own.

The songs on 'No!' are right for kids because they seem as if they were written by kids. Most kids music is heinous, almost like religious music that is only intended for the choir. The makers of most kid music seem to think that if they sing really slow and over-enunciate then kids will fall all over themselves with enjoyment. I've rarely found this to be the case.

'No!' is scary at times. It is angry. It is confused. It is hilarious. It is sad. In other words, 'No!' sounds like what it FEELS like to be a kid.

At that time in my life I needed a kids album to make me feel like I might be okay in the end. And like most kids, I wasn't really a kid.

I was a person.


Kim said...

Sometimes it's so hard to be the "grown up" person though. When I acting like "stupid girl" Jenica has taken to using my first name, and then telling me, "it will all be alright." Wise woman in there...

Brendan O'Malley said...

true! they tend not to like it too much when they sense that you aren't really in charge. we'll see how that plays out when they are teenagers!