#6 – “Turn Around” (1992)

Apollo 18

A.S.: As much as I do enjoy this song, it always seems to toe the line into self-parody a bit too close for comfort.

L.K.: What, the whole upbeat melody with morbid lyrics thing?
A.S.: Yeah, and the emphasis on the accordion.
L.K.: “Morbid” in this case rather than depressing, since it’s not a sad  song.
A.S.: No, not at all.
L.K.: It’s just… a song about dying and open graves and shit.
A.S.: And I mean, the lyrics are quite morbid; I especially love the “dirt rained down” line.
L.K.: Being buried in open graves… while somebody plays a xylophone.  Yeah, verging on self-parody seems like a pretty apt description here.
A.S.: I guess it’s the stream-of-consciousness, seemingly “random,” disparate elements – some morbid, some not – all in these little vignettes that seem to denote it as the sort of song that people would really expect to hear from TMBG.
L.K.: It’s like the “Weird Al” version of TMBG. And we know how TMBG felt about Weird Al in the early 90s…
A.S.: Funny you should say that, because I was going to mention how I was driving around with a friend of mine in the summer, listening to TMBG on shuffle, telling him he’d probably like some of their stuff.  “Turn Around” came up and he noted that it sounds like “Weird Al,” which it sort of does, especially the background vocals at the end. And of course, I said, “Well, not exactly…”
L.K.: Yeah, it’s probably a bad song to play for somebody to introduce that person to TMBG as a serious band and not a comedy act.
A.S.: Poor “Weird Al” though w/r/t TMBG’s avoidance of him in the ’90s
L.K.: At least “Weird Al” never held that against them.
A.S.: Which is good of him, he seems like a great guy and I’ve always loved him, but he’s different from TMBG.
L.K.: And John Flansburgh seems to have settled down a little two decades later.
A.S.: Yeah, true.
L.K.: Not that Flans was ever an ANGRY YOUNG MAN.
A.S.: But enough about other people’s’ perceptions of this song. SCREW OTHER PEOPLE! “Turn Around” is a perfectly fine song.
L.K.: Oh, yes.  Not my favorite song, but certainly not a bad one either.  I tend to prefer live recordings of it to the studio recording, and it does seem like it’d be a fun song to hear live; anything that makes Linnell play accordion more than two or three times a show!
A.S.: Yeah, I regret not hearing it during the last tour; hopefully it’ll stick around on the set.
L.K.: Unrelated to anything else, and this is going to make me sound really dumb, but the last verse of the song with the train engineer with the scary face?
A.S.: Yes?
L.K.: Always makes me think of that ghost train episode of Hey Arnold.  Always.  With the ghostly, accordion-playing train conductor.
A.S.: Oh yeah!  I remember that one.
L.K.: Obviously the song predates the tv show, and I kind of doubt the episode was at all related to the song …but it still makes me think of it regardless.
A.S.: Yeah, pretty sure there’s no correlation there whatsoever.
L.K.: CREEPY GUYS IN TRAINS. ACCORDIONS. Yeah, I told you this was going to make me sound dumb.  I like the effects on the last chorus of the song too. Can’t think of too much else particularly noteworthy to say though.
A.S.: As somewhat stereotypical as the lyrics may be for TMBG, they’re still full of great little lines. The first one especially is almost American Psycho-esque as far as killing people and working in office buildings and psychosis and stuff is concerned. And the book pre-dates “Turn Around”! But again, about a .001% chance of correlation there. Just trying to think of any other TMBG songs that would be more likely associated with Bret Easton Ellis than this one.
L.K.: Yeah, Bret Easton Ellis is too busy stealing Elvis Costello’s song titles to bother writing anything coincidentally related to a TMBG song.
A.S.: And then out of nowhere he names his next book Snowball In Hell.
2 Responses to “#6 – “Turn Around” (1992)”
  1. Nathan says:

    As far as the Weird Al connection goes, his TMBG style parody “Everything You Know Is Wrong” obviously takes much of its structure from this song in particular. I have to wonder if part of why Flans has softened on Al is that Al now seems to be more accepted as a serious musician (albeit a serious musician who does comedic music) by the entertainment industry in general, so there’s less of a stigma attached.

    I remember coming across a picture of Michael Myers from Halloween with the caption “paper-white mask of evil.”

    • There’s a cruel sort of irony here in that Weird Al is much more famous and successful than TMBG are now, ever were, and probably ever will be. It’s not even like the total rejection of Al made people stop accusing TMBG of being a joke band–people are still doing that today, for some unfathomable reason. I feel like Flans settling down over issues of the band’s image probably has more to do with him realizing that there’s essentially nothing he can do to change people’s minds anymore than with coming to any sort of acceptance of Weird Al Yankovic. (Not sure how my blog-mate feels on this issue though…)-L.K.

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