Terri and I watched the extremely inspirational Gigantic tonight. I was an enormous TMBG fan in high school, and while I had to eventually let go during their long drought of sub-par records on a major-label, I still carry a torch. (Actually, the best stuff they’ve done in recent years is perhaps the Dunkin’ Donuts commercials that are currently playing).
Anyway, I came to talk about the movie. Perhaps the best part were some of the extras, like them doing “Birdhouse in your Soul” in 1990 with Doc Severinson and the Tonight Show Orchestra (!). Some interesting fans were interviewed, too, like Sarah Vowell, who talked about how they’re an alternative to “Bacchanalian” rock music (“you can listen to They Might Be Giants and not have to pretend to be more messed up than you are”), and Ira Glass who had some quirky comments. (Dave Eggers shows up without managing to say anything insightful).
The concert footage that seemed shot for the documentary was fine, but I would have liked to have seen more old footage (maybe very little exists? maybe much belongs to Elektra?).
But I found it inspirational tonight in the way I found TMBG inspirational as a teenager, hearing “Ana Ng” for the first time, on “Modern Times”, the radio show that ran from midnight to 6am on WYEP in Pittsburgh, DJed by Harry the Wire. I heard it and I just thought “what in the world is this?!“. I didn’t know you could just make a song stop when it was done, even if it was only a minute and a half long, instead of pummeling the chorus into the ground and fading out. (I still hadn’t heard The Minutemen or The Ramones; of course, I still despise The Ramones, who, despite the short songs, are all about pummelling dumb ideas into the ground, and then picking them up and using them again in the next song).
TMBG were just so unabashedly smart, which was refreshing to me. They broke rules that you didn’t know were rules until you heard them breaking them. And they were so optimistically sad (which is expounded at length by many in the film).
The title of this post comes from a bit in the movie where Flansburgh mentions that they were reviewed in People magazine before they even had an official album, just cassettes that they made themselves and sold at shows.
The only bad part of the film is that like many documentaries, it suffers from the desire to over-inflate its subject; after nearly two hours of hearing about great John and John are, and how they, like invented music, I felt like I just ate five bowls of frosted sugar bombs.