Friday, February 6, 2009

Giants Among Us

In the fall of 1986, when I was eight years old a freshman in college, my friend Natalie came into my dorm room with a cassette tape that a friend had sent her.

"I'm not sure what this is," she told me. "It kind of sounds like two really stoned guys with a keyboard."

What Natalie had discovered was the genius that is They Might Be Giants, and I am forever in her debt. I can't hear the song "Don't Let's Start" without mentally driving up 14th Street in Charlottesville in Natalie's cherry red Jetta, screaming the lyrics out the windows. They were two really stoned guys with a keyboard. But they were frigging awesome.

Fast forward twenty-odd years and the Giants, bless their hearts, are still going strong. But in one of those totally mind-meld-y moments of divine inspiration, in the last few years, TMBG have turned their attention to perhaps what they should have been doing all along: kids' music. A little bit off-the-wall, incredibly clever and almost pathologically catchy, is it any wonder that they're the force behind the terrific theme songs for Mickey Mouse Funhouse and Higglytown Heroes? (We won't discuss the weirdness of the latter show, however, or how my friend Kay is suspicious of pizza guy's motives, always wanting to hang around all those children.)

All of us in the parent trenches know how hard it is to find kids' music that doesn't make you want to hurl, and the TMBG kids' CDs (there are now three of them) are so great I want to weep with relief. Who else could come up with a song called "Who Put The Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?" Or envision a conversation between the letters D and W?

"W, you think you're so great."
"Well, I am pretty big."
"Yeah, you're okay. You're just not as great as you think you are."
"How come I never see you around anymore, D?"
"I got this big TV set at home now. And I like to watch the sports."

It does my heart good to watch Ethan rock out to the Giants' latest offering, Here Come The 123s, which includes what might be my all-time favorite song opener, to a gem called "Nonagon:" "Everybody at the party is a many-sided polygon...."

Here Come the 123s is up for a Grammy Sunday night for Best Children's Album. And if there's any justice in the world, they'll win.

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