#68 – “Spines” (2004)

The Spine
[audio http://www.tmbg.com/_media/_pod/TMBGPodcast37A.mp3]

[“Spines” found 13 minutes, 17 seconds into podcast]

A.S.: Okay, now here’s a short song that merits discussion.

L.K.: Okay, no offense to Mr. Flansburgh, but I can’t listen to this without cracking up.
A.S.: Wasn’t that sort of the point?
L.K.: I don’t know! I honestly can’t tell if it’s supposed to be serious or not. Well I mean, not “serious”, but… not necessarily supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny?
A.S.: I dunno, there’s something inherently funny about multiple falsetto Flansburghs singing the word “spines” a cappella.
L.K.: Yeah, but I can’t put my finger on why it’s as funny as it is. Then again, “Toddler Hiway” makes me laugh too, so that’s a similar sort of thing there, with the multiple high-pitched Flansburghs. It’s not nearly as strong an effect though.
A.S.: It’s not exaggerated.  It doesn’t have that loud, over-the-top, in-your-face 2000s pop filter.
L.K.: Oh yeah, there’s the juxtaposition of the singing style and the production with the incredibly strange lyrics. God, this is a weird song.
A.S.: How will spines make you fall in love with spines?
L.K.: They’re gonna make you beg. Gonna make you scream. And uh, cry and crawl and fall in love again. I am just fascinated by why they seized upon spines as the whole thematic base of their 2004 material. Why spines?
A.S.: I don’t know, but speaking of spines, I want to draw attention to the rather graphic illustration in the liner notes of the CD.
L.K.: Oh, the deer. Yeah, that’s surprisingly gory for them.
A.S.: Depicting a silhouette of a deer carcass hung upside down from a tree, with its spine dangling from the lower half of its body, with its innards and head lying on the ground. I’m really fond of that.
L.K.: Oh yeah, I think it’s great too, but it’s just strange imagery for a They Might Be Giants album.
A.S.: Not in a sociopathic way of course, but it’s just, yeah, a strange thing for them.  It’s refreshing.
L.K.: They always pick a really different direction to go in graphic design-wise for each album (or at least each adult album), which is indeed refreshing. We can probably blame Flans’s art school background for that.
A.S.: Yeah, for as much as they haven’t really had an incredible album cover since Lincoln, the designs for each of the records are all really interesting and diverse.
L.K.: But yeah, this song… it’s like a title track, but not really.
A.S.: This is a good example of what they’re capable of doing in 30 seconds. Just a fun, weird, completely idiosyncratic song.
L.K.: I enjoy “Spine” more as a song, but “Spines” fits in within the context of The Spine as a whole. So many spines! (Of course, there’s also “The Spine Surfs Alone” off the eponymous EP.)
A.S.: All good songs.  TMBG’s spines served them well.
L.K.: I still do think The Spine is one of their more coherent albums, and I think the little mini-songs like this one sort of help with the bridging between songs.
A.S.: It’s reminiscent of the Pink Album. I don’t know why the hell The Spine gets such a bad rep.
L.K.: Now that it’s been out for eight years, maybe people will finally start to reexamine it a bit more. I actually enjoy it more than The Else, which seems like kind of a minority opinion.
A.S.: I’m not sure which I enjoy more but I just think it’s a great record. We’ve already touched on this a bit, but we’ll get to it again in the future.
2 Responses to “#68 – “Spines” (2004)”
  1. Lowell says:

    I’m a big fan of The Spine, and found The Else to be probably their most forgettable album. Glad to see some Spine love out of yous twos.

    • “The Else” definitely has its fair share of strong moments (“Climbing The Walls”, “With The Dark”, “The Cap’m”, “Withered Hope”, and so forth), but I think the fact that it has a mere 13 songs puts it at a severe disadvantage. But yes, much “Spine”-al love from both of us.

      – A.S.

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