I can;t believe it took me over 30 years to finally hear this album, but that’s the sad truth. At first, the TMBG debut album was LP only in that nether period where not all new albums in the mid-80s were released on CD. I remember seeing the LP at first but not the CD. I only bought the CD-3 singles release from it at the time. The CD of this then became available but I never got around to picking it up. Instead, I bought their next three albums and any singles released from them until the fateful year of 1993, whereupon I simply stopped buying any TMBG music for reasons unknown.
#5 • They Might Be Giants: They Might Be Giants US CD 
- Everything Right Is Wrong Again
- Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head
- Number Three
- Don’t Let’s Start
- Hide Away Folk Family
- 32 Footsteps
- Toddler Hiway
- Rabid Child
- Nothing’s Gonna Change My Clothes
- (She Was A) Hotel Detective
- She’s An Angel
- Youth Culture Killed My Dog
- Boat Of Car
- Absolutely Bill’s Mood
- Chess Piece Face
- I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die
- Alienation’s For The Rich
- The Day
- Rhythm Section Want Ad
It’s been a looooong time since I’ve fired up any of the TMBG in the Record Cell. I only really know their short, sharp, surreal early period, but maybe because this was the first album [that I never heard] I was actually surprised by the abrupt shifts in tone and willful embrace of non sequitur that the band employed. While huge chunks of this are gleeful pop, there were aspects of this that strongly recalled The Residents. Especially during their “Commercial Album” period full of songs this brief. Some of the juxtapositions the band favored could be just as dark as with The Residents.
The instrumentation of guitars, saxes, and accordion with drum machine and sampler was both of its time and completely out of it. I did not expect the hints of country music that could be found in the mix, as on “Alienation’s For The Rich,” but with a band this eclectic, I should not have been surprised. I was also jarred by the appearance of guest vocalist Margaret Seiler on the unsettling “Boat Of Car” but not as much as by the slightly arrhythmic sample in the song of Johnny Cash saying “daddy sang…bass” that manifested there. It is now lodged in my mind… haunting me.
The single “[She Was a] Hotel Detective” was still a rousingly great appropriation of rock tropes pushed slightly into the red by the hint of madness in the band’s demeanor. Their usage of manic laughter for an effect that’s both giddy and unsettling was always a part of this song, but also manifests variously throughout the album. It managed to count as a stylistic leitmotif for them this time out.
This band were immediately appealing to me when their video for “Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head” managed to eke out a space on MTV’s 120 Minutes back in 1986. Strangely enough, there was only an obscure sub-indie split 7″ EP for the song; not a single as such, and yet they filmed a video for it. And it got on MTV. I’d always assumed that there had been a Bar None Records single of it on vinyl only, but no. This was wrong. Their first Bar None single was the ebullient “Don’t Let’s Start,” which I did buy on CD-3 at the time.
This is a great album that I wish I’d bought about 30 years prior. It made no sense that I didn’t until now. 95% of these songs get right under my skin and stay there. I really only get antsy during “Hide Away Folk Family.” The rest are skewed, left-field pop of the best kind. Now I need to fire up “Lincoln,” “Flood,” and “Apollo 18.”
CONCLUSION: enjoy…what took me so long?