Arts blog: Salmond keeps moving my chair

John Flansburgh, left, and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants. Picture: AP
John Flansburgh, left, and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants. Picture: AP
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I CAN’T decide which was the more exciting development yesterday - receiving a press release announcing that They Might Be Giants, one of the first bands I properly loved as a teenager, are to play Edinburgh Queen’s Hall on 15 November, or discovering the existence of They Might Be Gannets, “the only They Might Be Giants tribute band from South Queensferry”.

They Might Be Giants are probably best known in the UK for their 1990 hit Birdhouse in Your Soul, but if that’s all you know about them you’ve missed out on three decades of delightful, eccentric musical invention. Their Dial-a-Song project, for example, was a New York phone number you could call and – in theory – listen to a brand new song every day. This was in the days before the internet, and in practice it often didn’t work very well (its slogan: “Always busy, often broken”) but it was a lovely idea.

Then there was Fingertips, a suite of 21 miniature pop songs, all just a few seconds long and designed to be played in any order. Or their equally entertaining children’s albums, like Here Comes Science. Or just the fact that they wrote songs with titles like Youth Culture Killed My Dog, Shoehorn with Teeth (“he wants a shoehorn, the kind with teeth, cause he knows there’s no such thing”) or Someone Keeps Moving My Chair.

They Might Be Gannets are the invention of Edinburgh punk musician turned comedian Tommy Mackay, the man behind satirical website the Daily Reckless. Mackay has made two They Might Be Giants tribute albums. The first, Fingertips, expanded all 21 of the Giants’ pop haikus into full length songs, which is a clever idea but, for me, slightly misses the point of the thing. The second, Fud, is a “Caledonian homage” to the Giants’ 1990 album Flood (the one Birdhouse in Your Soul appeared on), on which Istanbul (Not Constantinople) becomes Prestonpans (Not Quite Portobello), Someone Keeps Moving My Chair is Salmond Keeps Moving My Chair and – controversy alert – Your Racist Friend becomes Your Unionist Friend. Even if you don’t know the original songs, it’s a hoot. You’ll find it at theymightbegannets.bandcamp.com.