Everything Right Is Wrong Again - I love how the album starts out with those two notes, and then bursts right into the song. The psychedelic bridge is pretty cool. The lyrics seem rather stream-of-consciousness, and have some great lines, like, "Every five-and-dime's been gained and spent."
Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head - From what I understand, this one was a collaboration between the two Johns, with Linnell writing the tune and the chorus (all seven words of it), and Flansburgh coming up with the rest of the words. Really, though, I don't think there was as much difference between the two Johns' songwriting back then. One of my favorites on the album, although it didn't immediately click with me. The organ on these early songs is very catchy.
Number Three - When I first listened to this album, the first two songs didn't do much for me, but this one immediately caught my attention. As much as the Johns might not want to admit it, there's definitely a novelty-song quality to this one, especially with the verse about going to see the President (who I guess would have been Reagan at the time it was written, but I think they wanted to keep it generic).
Don't Let's Start - I remember hearing an interview where the Johns said this was going to be the first song on the album, but they thought the lyrics were too weird. What, and the lyrics to ERIWA AREN'T? In fact, I think that one might be even weirder, but I also think it's a better opener, so everything worked out all right. Probably the biggest hit on this album (inasmuch as you can say that ANY of the albums really have hits), and deservedly so. It's the first (at least as far as track order goes) of many fun songs with bleak lyrics that would come from this band. I'm actually listening to the Then version, which I'm told is actually the single mix instead of the original album mix, but I'm sure I'd have to listen REALLY closely to tell the difference.
Hide Away Folk Family - Why doesn't TMBG write songs this creepy anymore? Yeah, they still use disturbing themes, but they're never quite this dreary. Yet, at the same time, there are some jokes in the lyrics. I enjoy the Daily Home Astrology Report part. When I first got into the band, I found out Flans's birthday some time before Linnell's (I don't think it was in the FAQ then, for whatever reason), and I figured that the two star signs mentioned might have been the Johns' own. Then I found out Linnell was a Gemini. So much for that idea. By the way, is there any truth to the statement (I think it was made on the alt.music.tmbg newsgroup) that a hideaway folk family is a kind of nesting doll?
32 Footsteps - Another one with kind of an eerie sound to it, although maybe that's mostly because of the aborted count at the end. I always figured this song was about a relationship failing, but there are lines in it that don't really fit. Also, is that a real harmonica or a sample?
Toddler Hiway - This is a fun little song, and was apparently based on an actual toy store that used to put toys in the parking lot for kids to try out before going in.
Rabid Child - Hey, isn't this the fourth Flans lead vocal in a row? I suppose that's fair, though, since the next album is so Linnell-dominated. And he really puts a good amount of emotion into this song about a girl talking to a truckers on a CB radio.
Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes - Several of these early songs seem like they were originally based on a pun or other joke. In this case, the title is obviously a play on a line from the Beatles' "Across the Universe." Very catchy song, and I think it was the last one on the first side of the vinyl record (not that I've actually listened to that).
(She Was a) Hotel Detective - Possibly my least favorite song on the album. Its more generic rock sound doesn't really fit so well with most of the rest of the album (although maybe it worked better when it was the beginning of Side 2 of the record). Not a bad song, but a really odd choice for a single. And really, aren't the rhymes a bit desperate? "Come on and swing with me, from on the top of a tree, and make me feel like a bee"? Really, John?
She's an Angel - The Johns say in the Then liner notes that they originally wanted to replace the synthesized bass with accordion, but never got around to it. I wonder if it would have sounded better that way. I really like this song, although I think they sometimes overplay it live.
But then, they also go through long periods of time where they don't play it at all, so maybe it balances out.
Youth Culture Killed My Dog - I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was a situation where they came up with a title first, and then had to come up with a song to go with it. That doesn't mean it's a bad song, though. I'd say this is the album's second rock track, and it works better than "Hotel Detective."
Boat of Car - I used to find this song pretty creepy, although I think that might be due less to the song itself than to a nightmare I had in which it was playing. But then, I think that helped me to take notice of this simple but interesting little song. Why does it play the Johnny Cash sample? Who knows? Possibly another song title deriving from a pun, since people refer to big cars at boats.
Absolutely Bill's Mood - I was pleasantly surprised to hear this one live a few years ago. It has a sound that's quite dissonant, yet catchy as well.
Chess Piece Face - I like it when albums have recurring themes, like how the title character had already received a mention in "Rabid Child." It makes me think there's something deeper going on with the record, and is one reason I hope the album format doesn't die out (at least not within my lifetime). The "I don't know if he's dreaming" line makes me think of the Red King from Through the Looking-Glass (who, of course, WAS a chess piece), but I doubt that was intentional.
I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die - I remember someone at my college talking about this song before I ever actually heard it, and I thought it sounded pretty cool. As it turns out, it is, although I kind of like the slow duet version better than the sample-heavy album track. This is another song I had a dream about back in the day. In the dream, my dad told me that the line was actually "cutting table," not "kitchen table." Oh, and does the title really start with "I" or not? I've seen it listed both ways.
Alienation's for the Rich - If I remember correctly, I had mixed feelings about this song early on. I enjoyed it, but wasn't so keen on the way Flans sings it. But really, that sort of singing fits the song, doesn't it?
The Day - I've found this to be a seriously underrated song. When people talk in an Internet community about least favorite TMBG songs, this one often tends to come up, and I'm not sure why. No, it's not one of my all-time favorites (really, it's probably on the lower end as far as the songs on this album go), but how can you resist those lyrics? "Happiness bled from every street corner, and biplanes bombed with fluffy pillows." Fascinating imagery, no?
Rhythm Section Want Ad - And I think this one might be a bit overrated, which isn't to say I don't like it, just that it's not a favorite of mine. The pun with the "pros/prose only" sign is really clever, though.
Next time, we take a look at Lincoln. I don't know when that will be, as I don't think I'll be putting these reviews out on a regular schedule, but it should be soon. It's not like it's very long or anything.
Finally, happy birthday to zimbra1006! Not sure why I forgot to mention that in any of my other posts today, since her birthdate is right in her user name. Oh, well.