When the clock strikes 12 it’s happy land!
Beloved Brooklyn band They Might Be Giants will say goodbye to 2017 with a pair of concerts at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Dec. 30 and on New Year’s Eve. Over the last few years, it has become a tradition for the Giants to play a New Year’s Eve show in their hometown of old New York, which was once New Amsterdam. Why did touring on New Year’s Eve get the works? I can’t say, but one of the band’s co-founders said that they liked it better that way.
“It really felt like when everybody — the entire world, really — was having a good time, we were just running around,” said John Flansburgh, who formed the band 35 years ago with John Linnell.
The shows will also offer a sneak peek at the band’s 20th studio album “I Like Fun,” due out on Jan. 19. The band plans to launch a tour of the United States and Europe in mid-January, but the Williamsburg shows feature the debut of a new live lineup that includes trumpeter Kurt Ram, a veteran of performances with Bruce Springsteen and Nile Rodgers.
“Somehow we talked him into coming on board full time with us,” Flansburgh said.
Many popular songs in the band’s catalog feature trumpet, notably the again-topical hit “Your Racist Friend” and the band’s theme song, but having a dedicated trumpet player on the stage will offer new options for the live show, he said.
“When we’ve done those songs live, we’ve just kind of glossed over the fact that the trumpet isn’t there,” Flansburgh said. “And we’ll be able to do some real audience favorites much more precisely.”
The shows will also preview some songs from “I Like Fun,” two of which — “I Left My Body” and “Last Wave” — have already been released. The latter tune employs a creative model that has proven successful for They Might Be Giants in the past: wedding a hook-filled, up-tempo melody to lyrics about living and dying alone. The lyrics recall “Don’t Let’s Start,” a song from the band’s debut, self-titled album from 1987, which crooned “Everyone dies frustrated and sad — and that is beautiful!”
Band co-founder Linnell was the author of both “Last Wave” and “Don’t Let’s Start,” but Flansburgh believes that both tunes explore the nature of what a pop song can express, he said.
“You can really put a lot of ideas into a pop song,” he says. “The ideas in the melody, rhythm, and arrangement are incredibly persuasive to people. And in a way, the lyric is pushing the outer limits of what’s possible in that format.”
And though the band seems to have a bottomless well of musical ideas, Flansburgh is forthright about the limits of originality.
“We’ve been making songs for 35 years now,” he says. “At a certain point, you have to forgive yourself for reusing nouns and revisiting ideas.”
They Might be Giants at Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. Sixth St. between, Wythe and Kent avenues in Williamsburg, www.music