When approached with the subject of beloved cult band They Might Be Giants I’m usually a bit hesitant to say much of anything. I’m not much of a TMBG fan, or really a fan at all. But today when the subject came up, I bravely threw out that my favorite song of their’s is “Dr. Worm.”
To which a friend quickly responded: “Yes! Don’t you think that’s the saddest song?”
To which I immediately said: “Yes, yes I do.”
Actually, I hadn’t put much thought about the emotional stasis of the song before answering. Probably because I hadn’t thought of, or even listened to, “Dr. Worm” in a handful of years. But my gesture and response was sincere, and the more I think about it, the more “Dr. Worm” strikes me as an excellent piece of emotional abstraction in music. Take a listen:
The song is tight and poppy, filled with upbeat hooks and sections you can chant along to. And the vocal styling is quite sincere and displays a degree of happiness alongside it. And yet, the lyrics are oddly, well, sad, especially when juxtaposed against the song’s performance. It’s all about a little creature pretending to be something he’s not (a doctor), practicing his hardest at something he’s not quite sure he’s good at (drums), and asking for a little attention and friendship. And the singing style seems to evoke this sadness in a way, permeating the light-hearted sonic layer to give the work a certain amount of depth. Now that’s a quality that should be taken to heart and used in all genres – emo or otherwise. It seems unfortunate, but in a number of ways numerous emo acts today have tossed aside this intellectual sincerity of song-craft for violence in lyrical gestures and presentation. Some, not all. And some don’t quite add up to some form of reputable works of music. It happens in all genres, but for the one that is known for a substantially higher “emotional” quality (in the guise of the devil’s advocate), for some reason the grip of emotion seems lost on numerous bands, replaced with easy-to-replicate three-chord pop ditties. Which is not necessarily wrong, just not necessarily interesting.
Tickets for Dan Deacon’s Baltimore Round Robin Tour for Boston are now available to purchase. At $8 for one night or $15 for both nights, all-ages performances and an irresistible and eclectic lineup with a killer performance idea (a rotating performance of songs around the perimeter of the venue), it goes to show that Deacon and Co. certainly are as forward-thinking as any of America’s great underground music minds. Get your tickets through Bodies of Water Arts and Crafts.