Jonathan Coulton & There Might Be Giants at Venue
“Bubble pop with a beard…” That’s what I was thinking, sipping a Blue Buck and listening to Jonathan Coulton sing on stage Tuesday night. All the way from Brooklyn, the singer-songwriter debuted his brand-spanking new album Artificial Heart at Venue to a very random, indistinguishable crowd (i.e. woman wearing beige fisherman hat).
Everyone seemed to be bopping along in their own nerdy-dance sort of way, to songs like Sticking it to Myself. Definitely on the lighter side and Bare-Naked-Ladies-sounding, Coulton’s lyrics are sometimes catchy but mostly repetitive.
Coulton told the audience “this is a song about shopping” before playing Alone at Home.That certainly was the only way to describe it. Simple music bordering on cheese, but don’t take my word for it! Not my style, maybe yours. I
Headlining that tour are some other Brooklyn-born musicians you may have heard of – There Might Be Giants, who have gained a reputation making off beat music for the past 30 years. Playing their 1990 album Flood its entirety, every poppy, rhythmic song with quick lyrics and a happy, feel good sound reminded me of the music that went along with a good old 90s movie montage. You know, those cookie cutter scenes that fast-forward characters’ productivity, overcoming obstacles and accomplishing something in a two- minute clip.
This was my first time hearing the band and I quite enjoyed certain escalating drumbeats and wicked guitar rifts entrenched into some of their songs. I had no idea they’ve sold over four million records and have a Grammy for the “Boss of Me” theme song to Malcolm in the Middle under their belt.
Their style is so wide-ranging and weird, I found myself wondering what it was after each song ended. No matter how many they went through, I couldn’t remember a distinct sound – I was surprised every time.
Some points during the performance did stand out though. Drummer Marty Beller got a lot of attention with the strange and comical “Halloween song”. “I’m steaming up the inside of my Marty Beller mask, ‘cause I’m really Whitney Houston on the drums.” These guys were pretty entertaining. All their die-hard fans were certainly enjoying themselves, trying to rock out to the most non-head-bangable music I’ve ever heard.
But at one point, lead singer John Flansburgh got it going by dividing the crowd in half with a massive flashlight, making one side people and the other apes. Each side chanted their biology one group at a time – “People, people” or “Apes! Apes! Apes!” fist pumping as the band jammed at a tempo inline with our screaming.
John Linnell busting out the bass clarinet but breaking his strap right before beginning a new song was memorable. He admitted this happens all the time, and was forced into a chair to keep the massive thing propped up so he could play.
My favourite part was when the audience broke out into a slow sing-along for what I thought was the best performance of the night – Road movie to Berlin.
This band is definitely dynamic but one I can’t put my finger on. The show was a good change from my newfound electro love and my always-present classic rock fiend snobbery. It was unique and hard to like, which is what makes it somehow likeable.
They Might Be Giants are certainly a creative duo-turned-band, and I’m sure this isn’t the last of them. Check out their new record Album Raises New and Troubling Questions, which Flansburgh referred to as “a really stoned name for an album. Or maybe that was just us looking in a mirror.”