They Might Be Giants :: "Can't Keep Johnny Down"

There was a time in my life where I knew every lyric to They Might Be Giants first six studio LPs. It was the mid-90s and I was in the full embrace of the band's nerd-rock empire. This all culminated at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island on the night of my 14th birthday when the band played a life-altering set of songs I knew by heart and I pogo'd up and down next to my best friend while my parents stood in the back and watched and supervised. It was miles from the grunge rock I had just missed by age (you were either a teenager for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in 1991 or you weren't, and I wasn't) but it spoke to the upwardly mobile desires of an over-educated, upper-middle class kid. I wanted to be whip smart and culturally relevant, and still be able to make fun of being whip smart and culturally relevant. Thou shalt not take yourself so seriously, I would have thought during the chorus of "Birdhouse In Your Soul" as my adolescent calves tried to rocket my body to the ceiling.

That night the band most certainly played, "Ana Ng", a catchy power-pop number that once went to #11 on the Alternative Rock chart. Meaning, roughly, They Might Be Giants have always existed in this liminal space between being critically acclaimed and just weird enough to keep everyone at bay, always with an outside chance of mainstream crossover. So, it is this band that returns with a quirky, and desperately singable song, "Can't Keep Johnny Down". John Linnell's trademark nasal vocals spin a tale of big dreams in small towns (or it could easily be some post-Breakfast Club anthem for all the kids who made you feel terrible in high school), while the band with a Swiss Army repetoire sounds like, well, a nerdy rock band. It will stick in your head instantly, as if it was 1996 again and your brain was so full of their lyrics it hurt. They Might Be Giants return in earnest this summer with a new LP, Join US. Until then, we will explore the the trench of nostalgia between here and our adolescence.

Listen :: They Might Be Giants :: "Can't Keep Johnny Down"

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