They Might Be Giants
Why Does the Sun Shine? (Elektra 66272)
They Might Be Giants are masters of the EP in the CD era, always having demonstrated a facility for the perfect b-sides and the aesthetically ideal programming for short-form releases. Why Does The Sun Shine? is one of their more inspired moments, offering four songs in under ten minutes and showcasing TMBG in their early stages of working with a live band.
The title track, a cover from an old 50s children's record about space, perhaps worked better in the days when it was exclusive to TMBG's Dial-a-Song service, but maybe that's just jaded me being tired of the song after having seen the band perform it numerous times. It's a clever song, for sure, and both Johns carry it forward with the appropriate deadpan.
Track two is a cover of the Allman Brothers' "Jessica," hilariously recast as some sort of New Orleans beer garden party song, with wailing clarinet and the guitar shadowed by accordion. Very nice, and a truly inspired cover (more and more of a rarity in the cover-crazed 90s. Don't even get me started on those damn Wallflowers doing "Heroes" by Bowie. If I were Godzilla I'd eat their fricking heads!)
"Whirlpool" follows, a brilliant rearrangement of the (mediocre) Meat Puppets song, done purely with voice, horns and bass. This is fresh to me every time I hear it, and is definitely one of my favorite TMBG tracks. They've rarely made music this sublime, actually. Barely two minutes long, but that just means I can listen to it more times per hour. The EP concludes with "Spy," a typical Flansburgh "Hey, look at me, I'm making fun of clichés!" song, but made interesting by the furious drumming and mysterious horns. Almost obscures the flatness of the song itself.
This EP (from 1993) is a nice snapshot of TMBG post-Apollo 18 and pre-John Henry, capturing their excitement of using a live band, exploring the limitations and liberations. (I know that's not a word, Word 97, stop glaring at me.) Takes me back to the days when They Might Be Giants were still going to change the world. (Sigh.)
Review by Pepito Peppitone