On Jan. 5, 1990, They Might Be Giants (TMBG) released their third album, Flood. This was the band’s first release on a major record label (Elektra – previous work had been released on Bar/None Records), and the LP would peak at #75 on the US album charts.
By “band,” I really mean John Flansburgh and John Linnell, who grew up in Lincoln, Mass., and began writing songs together in high school (but never formed an actual band). After attending separate colleges, the duo reunited in 1981 and moved to Brooklyn to launch a music career.
TMBG took their name from the 1971 George C. Scott film. They began to build a cult following in Manhattan while pursuing a record deal. To help their effort, they set up an answering machine with their songs and encouraged fans and record executives to call Dial-A-Song any time of the day.
Flood continued with the quirky, geeky music and lyrics that endeared They Might Be Giants to their fans — eclectic yet infectious arrangements with vocals that referenced a wide range of educated and insipid nods to high art, history and pop culture. The album’s cover used a Margaret Bourke-White photo of flooding along the Ohio River in 1937.
The LP generated three singles: “Twisting,” which got to #22 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” a cover of the Four Lads hit from the ’50s which only charted in the UK, and “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” which hit #3 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Not to put too fine a point on it, “Birdhouse in Your Soul” is the only song I can think of that is written from the point of view of a nightlight. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.