What did it imply to be a rock star in 1990? Regardless of the reply is perhaps, They Would possibly Be Giants had been decidedly not it. The Brooklyn duo’s fashion was extra turtlenecks than leather-based, their voices nasal and never particularly alluring, their erratic dance strikes extra just like the mechanics of wind-up toys. One in all them performed the accordion. On their first report, they gave a well-known Who lyric a honest moralistic spin: “I Hope That I Get Outdated Earlier than I Die.” But those self same uncool qualities had been the precise issues that made They Would possibly Be Giants whole rock stars. Their means to seize listeners with sharp, catchy songwriting was by no means extra evident than on 1990’s Flood, the place their expansive creativeness was matched by main label cash. The underdogs all the time discover a means.
John Flansburgh and John Linnell had each come of age in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a comfortable Boston suburb shut sufficient to Walden Pond that Thoreau may hear the ringing of the city’s church bells throughout his afternoon meditations. As excessive schoolers, the pair labored collectively on the college newspaper and bonded over a mutual curiosity in comics books, the Ramones, and experimenting with Flansburgh’s tape machine. In 1981, the 2 Johns reconnected as younger adults after transferring into the identical Brooklyn residence—Flansburgh was there to check printmaking at Pratt, and Linnell was taking part in keys in a band known as the Mundanes. The limitlessness of punk had blossomed into the brightness of recent wave, and the pair’s quirky preoccupations made them pure bedfellows inside a burgeoning New York Metropolis scene.
On the time, New York was simply rising from the financial stagnation and crime surge that battered the town within the Seventies; 1981 would grow to be considered one of its most violent years. However there was potential within the disintegration. The Johns started engaged on music collectively in earnest, with Flansburgh on guitar, Linnell on accordion, and a drum machine. The absence of a proper rhythm part was liberating: Whereas they won’t have been in a position to afford an orchestra, they may program one on a pc. (Moreover, lugging an organ to gigs was exhausting, as they came upon at their first present: a Sandinista rally in Central Park.)
Over within the East Village, performers as eclectic as feminist artist Karen Finley—recognized for intense monologues in regards to the politics of the feminine physique over pounding disco beats—and Steve Buscemi’s comedy duo may discover an viewers. In between day jobs as a graphic designer and a darkroom technician, They Would possibly Be Giants started honing their very own act, which frequently included home made props—like a large follow a microphone hooked up to 1 finish, which Flansburgh would pound for percussion. However equally intriguing had been the Giants’ offstage practices. Within the early ’80s, after Flansburgh’s tools was stolen from his residence and Linnell broke his wrist whereas working as a motorbike messenger, the pair started recording songs to Flansburgh’s answering machine. They shared this materials not by in search of out a label, however by putting advertisements for what they known as Dial-a-Music—named after the Christian hotline Dial-a-Prayer—in The Village Voice classifieds part. Lengthy earlier than music was available on-line, the duo leveraged a landline to launch new songs each day and play them on to listeners in and past New York.