Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Let us imagine if there was some very small degree of separation between the members of They Might Be Giants and the Violent Femmes. We can take away all of the science and remove most of the horniness to make this more of a plausible discussion. What if there were a number of peculiarly odd and coincidental connections that confused the two - or actually five - lives? It would take a lot of same age overlap as well as at least one or two members of the bands sharing a hometown and an elementary school or something really valuable like that. It wouldn't take much, though there's nothing here in this game of what if that would give us anything of a lead. This charade is not about plausibility, just an exercise for giggles.
It would be encouraging to come across a high school chemistry teacher who would say something like, "I always knew that Gordon and John were going to be great cultural successes, just from the way that they always wore the same Blade Runner and Max Headroom tee-shirts and could be overheard discussing the value of Jonathan Richman when they were putting their Bunsen burners away at the end of the class period. They were a couple cards. Well, Gordon was a wild card." They have oddness in common, but that's not enough premise for a motion picture to be made out of their lives. They need to be conjoined by circumstance or locale to make this a venture that Spike Jonze would be into working on. We need some sort of twisting of fates to get this green lighted by Hollywood brass. And yet, the movie doesn't really matter all that much. All we're interested in is the soundtrack to this thing.
What needs to be assumed here is that, after much deliberation, neither of those iconic bands want to use their own material as backdrop tunes, music for pivotal moments in the storyline or the catchy song to roll during the end credits that sums all of what was just watched into a tight package. Ohio's State Bird is just the right band for the work, should such a predicament saddle the makers of such a documentary. They're able to harness some abstract quirkiness, some goofiness (not the same thing), some off the charts talent for easy-does-it melody and a unique ambition to challenge listeners with layers of oddity. They do something that requires drugs, but going out on a limb, there are no signs of drugs in their bodies.
A lot of the instrumental preludes and breaks sound like weird by-products of things that the Jackson 5 could have had at their side if they'd been into those previously referenced drugs as teenagers and not just later in life. But mostly, State Bird give the goods that are certainly uncertain, capitalizing on tangents and toasting all of their various influences to make a groove train anchored by words that seem uplifting and positive - filling hearts with love, getting enough rest and basking in light that could be the Lord's or it could just be a super sunny ass day. It's kind of immaculate and luscious no matter the source.
The songs speak - especially "The Golden Glowing Demons" - like gorgeous native anthems that are meant to return your pride to where it originated from. They bring a glow themselves, along with an effervescence that is unconscious. There's a home nearby that, at night reminds me of State Bird because of all of this. At night is when it's best to look at this residence, when everything else has gone deserted and dark around it. The trees are full of sleeping birds and the man-made light of bulbs throws some yellow light all throughout the one end of this house on a hill. Its high, steepled ceilings with fat timber beams reaching to a point make for an environment that should house incredible revelry. It's easy to feel the same things about these young guys being that house of light in the dark.
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