Guest List

They Might Be Giants Keep it Short & Sweet

They Might Be Giants - Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

Grammy-winning duo They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh and John Linnell) have been churning out catchy, smart tunes since 1986 – for both adults and on several albums for kids.

Their 16th album “Nanobots” features a whopping 25 songs in just 45 minutes. To celebrate the less-is-more idea, they suggest a few other tiny gems. (Catch TMBG on tour now.)


John Linnell: Hi, this is John Linnell of They Might Be Giants.

John Flansburgh: And this is John Flansburgh.

John Linnell: And we are here to promote our brand new album, Nanobots.

John Flansburgh: The album has 25 songs in 45 minutes, and in celebration of that idea we are here to present some other very short pieces of creative work.

1. “This is Just to Say” – William Carlos Williams

John Linnell: When we were given the assignment to present some short things that we enjoyed I thought of William Carlos William’s poem “This is Just to Say,” which I think of as William Carlos William’s famous poem.

John Flansburgh: I’m going to follow that up with a second William Carlos Williams poem

John Linnell: You’re cake-topping me.

John Flansburgh: That’s right. Is that an expression? I’m unaware. Cake-topping? When someone does something and then you put the icing on, so to speak?

John Linnell: Yes, exactly.

John Flansburgh: Okay, well this is a poem that I actually memorized.

John Linnell: Once again with the cake topping. Not enough just to love a William Carlos Williams.

John Flansburgh: Yes, here it is.

2. “The Red Wheelbarrow” – William Carlos Williams

John Flansburgh: I think the reason why I can remember the entire William Carlos Williams poem is because it is indeed so short, but I think my mother, I believe my mother wrote an entire sort of thesis paper about that poem. That might be the other reason why I’m remembering it and it was a very paper about, you know something like six lines of poetry. So that’s sort of an impressive fact in itself.

3. “Propaganda” by Sparks

John Flansburgh: For people who are not familiar with Sparks, they were a band that was originally from LA, but they had chart success in the UK with the glam movement in the mid 70s. They were a very startling group in almost every way.

John Linnell: My partner Mr. John Flansburgh put on the album as I recall the weirdest thing about it was it sounded like there were people in the room with us. It sounded so realistic that I actually jumped out of my skin. The song is only 23 seconds long.

John Linnell: Just 23 seconds long. Solid gold.

4. The Residents Commercial Album

John Flansburgh: This is a track from an album called “The Residents Commercial Album”. The Residents were an experimental band that started in the early 70s. They did truly unusual homemade music. The identity of the band members was never revealed and it’s possible that there really was only one guy doing the whole thing.

John Linnell: They are shrouded in mystery, The Residents. They appear in public with gigantic eyeballs for heads with top hats and one of the albums they made was an entire album of songs, each song only one minute in length, called The Commercial Album. And I think the idea of it is that they were supposed to be paid advertising, was going to be on the radio. In other words they would pay a radio station to play their minute long song as a commercial, but it of course was undistinguishable from the programming.

5. “Hive Mind” – They Might Be Giants

John Flansburgh: So to wrap things up we’ll end things fittingly with a very short song off our brand new album Nanobots. This song is called Hive Mind. It’s six seconds long.

John Linnell: It’s sexy.

John Flansburgh: It’s six seconds longs.

John Linnell: Do you want to say it again? I don’t know if that was clean.

John Flansburgh: Should I do that whole thing?

John Linnell: Just say the the end again.

John Flansburgh: It’s six seconds long. God, that’s hard to say. It is all of six seconds.