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King Weed
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Posted: August 03 2007 at 11:34am | IP Logged Quote King Weed

TMBG started out making really strange songs. It became their trademark and probably prevented their greater success. Alot of these songs, especially Flansburghs, strike me as what you hear at a stand-up poetry bar, or whatever thye are called, but put to music. Very independent, very eclectic. Yet they are classic to the TMBG fanbase now. I remember hearing those songs for the first time and thinking how funny and clever each and everyone was, if not for the lyrics then for the instrumentation (live, synthesized, or sampled).

The first era ended quite obviously with John Henry, but this next era I like just as much. Richer sound, horns section, wide range of musical styles, really showing off their ability. Linnell as always delivers songs you instantly can't get out of your head, and Flansburgh's are emotionally complex. The first two eras, also had these rare gems of EPs where you started to feel bad for people who only knew TMBG from Tiny Toons because they would never experience the amazing songs that the Johns only made available to those who sought out these rarer discs.

That era ended with Severe Tire Damage, track 2: Doctor Worm. As soon as the album went into the live music I lost interest. I had at that time never been to a concert and the change of sound between studio and stage was strange. This era also began side projects with Mono Puff and State Songs, and I'd have to say that they are still in a way doing side projects although together. Online music, TV, soundtracks, commercials, Children's albums, Broadway, film documentary, Disney... these guys have not just been doing albums and I think it may show. Most people seem to not like Mink Car, They Got Lost, and we know the reaction of the latest two albums.

I admire TMBG for doing what they want to do, and never caving to the mainstream. Yet what they are doing now is definitely not my favorite era of their music and sadly, there may not be another era. They're going to have to retire at some point and I can only imagine that the next decade, maybe two, will be just as full of them trying to get all the interesting and varies types of work that they can.

At least they still tour.

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makebase
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Posted: October 29 2007 at 5:01pm | IP Logged Quote makebase

I would have to disagree about the "era" boundaries. 

I think that the first era ended in '96, contemporary with the last Elektra album, Factory Showroom.  FS was a departure from the regular TMBG album format.  '96 was also the year of Mono Puff's Unsupervised.  I think Severe Tire Damage was the zenith of the we're-not-sure-what-to-do-without-a-record-label era.  It wasn't even a typical live album, with studio tracks, new tracks, and hidden tracks.  This was also the era where they began putting together all the side projects.  "Boss of Me" was born during this era. 

Subsequently, I think Mink Car marked their return to album-based recording.  This would be my definition of the third era.  An interesting observance about this stage in their history is that this is when they started recording children's music.  (Or, as one DJ in Seattle put it: "They've been making children's music for adults for years; now they're making it for kids.")  Since No! I've notice a more grown-up focus in their non-children's material.  The Spine had far more swearing in it than the mostly swearing-free catalog previous to that point.

I think that originally, they wanted to try a little of everything.  The beauty of their work at that time was the all-over-the-mapness of it.  The pink album is especially like that.  In the wake of Elektra, I'm not sure they knew what to do, and instead tried to reorganize.  Instead of putting a 43 second snippet of a song on an album, they put it in a TV theme song.  Eventually, they learned a new process for creating and releasing material and now there is a line of TMBG products for everyone, instead of one TMBG product that tries to please everyone.

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The Unknowable
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Posted: November 16 2007 at 3:16pm | IP Logged Quote The Unknowable

nice to hear from you makebase, awesome insight as always.
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