#52 – “On Earth My Nina” (1999)

Long Tall Weekend
L.K.: I guess this breaks our good song streak… sort of?
A.S.: This is great, who are you kidding.
L.K.: Though as far as short, weird songs go, it’s definitely more interesting than most. John Linnell wins points for devising the weirdest way to introduce a new song to the public – by performing it backwards.
A.S: It’s definitely one of the flat-out strangest items in the catalogue. This song is simply an a cappella performance of the phonetic backward lyrics/melody of TMBG’s song “Thunderbird”, a song that wouldn’t see its official studio release until five years after this.
L.K.: “Thunderbird” itself was being performed live years before it ever wound up on a studio album, but singing it backwards and putting it on an album is just beyond strange. I’m always fascinated by the fact that the Johns appear to spend much longer than is normal/healthy listening to things backwards. They’re both pretty adept at imitating fake backwards singing, and then there was the section of “Dinner Bell” that we discussed earlier. And now there’s this. I guess it at least proves they aren’t backmasking Satanic messages in any of their songs? Or at least not in this one…
A.S.: Well, we can’t be sure about that.  They have a lot of songs, as this blog will someday indicate.  I’m sure there’s something Satanic in at least one of them.
A.S.: I would love to have heard Long Tall Weekend when it came out, just for the perplexing experience of hearing this song and having no idea what the hell it was. Especially since Linnell attempts to sing the unintentional backwards affects, so even if I figured out what he was trying to do, I’d have no idea what the song is once I reversed this track. It’s such an original, inventive idea.
L.K.: The really crazy thing is though, after you’ve heard “Thunderbird”, when you play this track backwards, it really does sound like it. Parts of the lyrics are kind of off, but other parts are really disturbingly close though, like the title itself.
A.S.: I know Radiohead did something similar to this; “Like Spinning Plates” on 2001’s Amnesiac contains a reversal of “I Will”, released on 2003’s Hail to the Thief, although there’s no phonetic translation of the lyrics in Radiohead’s case.
L.K.: I know there have been people online who have jokingly made “full-band studio versions of “On Earth My Nina'” by just reversing “Thunderbird”.
A.S.: So I think we can conclude that Radiohead is a worse version of They Might Be Giants.

L.K.: Oh man, maybe if we issue a big enough take-that to Radiohead, TMBG will be able to reclaim some of their horn section from them. (I know I saw Stan Harrison and Curt Ramm performing with Radiohead on tv several months back…)

A.S.: Let’s keep going with this, then. Join Us was a much better 2011 album than The King of Limbs! …And that’s all I can think of right now.
L.K.: I will say that for the amount of hype that album received, neither it nor Join Us showed up on anybody’s “best of 2011” album lists.
A.S.: That’s because “anybody” was too busy falling asleep to the Bon Iver record.
L.K.: Though all of those lists had the exact same albums on them anyway… (but at least they had Tom Waits and Wilco on there… both of those were pretty good.)
A.S.: But we digress.  Anyway, someone made a really great video explaining the “On Earth My Nina”/”Thunderbird” reversal, which you can watch here:
One Response to “#52 – “On Earth My Nina” (1999)”
  1. Lowell says:

    Wow, I had never heard this before. Fascinating!

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