If you were a freshman in high school in 1990, you had not heard of They Might Be Giants. You just hadn’t. My sister was a freshman at Duke that year, where she received TMBG’ Flood as a gag gift for a birthday present. The story I was given at the time was that the quirky little album full of accordions and nasally vocals had become a running joke of sorts amongst her friends, particularly the song “Minimum Wage”, whose only lyrics are the title, followed by a yell and the crack of a whip.
She came home from school that summer and tossed it my way, giving me the same backstory above. I gave it a cursory listen to hear the joke, probably reacting the same way she did. It went into a cassette rack and collected dust.
Fast forward to the summer of 1993 and having just graduated high school, I decided to grab it and throw it in my car. The three years between 15 and 18 can change your musical tastes greatly, or at least expand them, and I was absorbing as much as I could as fast as I could. And so I cruised around the greater Pike Creek valley in suburban Delaware looking for something or nothing to do, absorbing this strange album. And increasingly digging it. Then I found myself weeks later still going back to it routinely, belting out ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ and ‘Lucky Ball and Chain’ at the top of my lungs.
Fifteen years later, Flood is still in pretty regular rotation in my life. To be more specific, Side 1 of Flood is still in regular rotation. For whatever reason, ‘Minimum Wage’ and most of side 2 never grabbed me, and I just kept rewinding and going back to side 1. Having bought a used copy of Flood on CD (one of maybe 10 albums I transitioned from cassette to CD), I still cut it off sometime soon after ‘We Want a Rock’. I’ve always referred to it affectionately as one of the best halves of an album ever.