Online since August 2002

Box set captures magic of TMBG

From the Autumn 2002 issue.

Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants
Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants
By They Might Be Giants

Rhino Records: 2002

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

When you mention the name "They Might Be Giants" to someone who is not very familiar with them, they usually have no idea what you are talking about or say something like "Aren't they that band that did 'Particle Man in the 80s?'"

The truth is that John and John have been together for 20 years, and few realize the amount of consistently great music that they have created the entire time, which is quite unfortunate. The "Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants" box set is a testament to those 20 years, and one that is quite up to the task of compiling a complete and accurate representation of what They Might Be Giants are about.

The songs selection range from their breakthrough single "Don't Let's Start" to songs from the children's album "NO!" released earlier this year, as well as rarities such as "Dr. Evil" from the Austin Powers movie, and the adult version of "Robot Parade." The songs are not in any sort of chronological order, and with the remastering job there is no way you could tell which songs are old and which are new unless you were an avid fan, which is how a great anthology should be presented, in a timeless form.

John and John have long had a phone number (718-387-6962) to a service they call "Dial-a-Song" where they would record snippets of song ideas as the outgoing message on a standard Answering machine. They would advertise the service in the "Village Voice" and used it as a gauge for song ideas. Since the machine was in their apartment, they could tell if someone hung up immediately or listened to the entire song. When people initially heard that there was a box set named "Dial-a-song" released, most of them assumed that it would be a rarities collection of the songs actually recorded for this service, but since just about every song they have ever done has been born from it, the name makes sense and is accurate.

Rhino Records has made quite a name for themselves in the box set world with their audio re-mastering as well as in-depth liner notes and lyrics — and this is no exception. The sound is absolutely fabulous, and the 48-page booklet inside has 16 pages dedicated to the history of the band, and the rest is a literal phone book of lyrics and credits.

For the TMBG fan who has been with the band throughout the years, this album offers little in the way of songs they may not have heard before, but I guarantee there will be sounds within the songs they already know and love, that they had no idea were there. For the person not that familiar with the band, this collection provides a complete and clear audible vision of the vast musical styles that these guys are capable of, which happens to be just about anything and everything.

Review by Keith Rice. Keith is a programmer and drummer living in Vista, Calif.

CD Review Archive | Music Home Page | Turbula Home Page