A few weeks ago I received one of those digital missives informing me that if I Acted Fast I could take advantage of a Very Special offer. But this one was different. Rather than telling me about ways to make my penis larger or offering discrete sex with lonely locals, I was informed that for the bargain basement price of forty-five American dollars I could be the proud owner of one box full of They Might Be Giants merchandise.
Included in this amazing deal were the following:
1 Drinky Crow “Countdown to New Year’s” t-shirt designed by Tony Millionaire
1 “Them Ain’t Big Eye Ants” DVD – a collection of new videos
1 Travel coffee mug
1 set of all-new Cryptozoology playing cards designed by Paul Sahre
1 set of reproductions of TMBG show flyers from early in their career
1 glossy reproduction of their first official press photo
3 Mystery items!
I’m going to go ahead and tell you that the flyer reproductions alone made it worthwhile to me. To be able to take a peek at the Golden Age of TMBG as they were taking over the Village was too exciting to pass up.
The rest of the items were great too, though. The last TMBG t-shirt I owned was a “Why the Sun Shines” ringer and I believe it was stolen by an ex-girlfriend years ago. I haven’t bought one since because I haven’t exactly been keeping up with my second favorite band. I listen to them on a regular basis. Heck, I play through every TMBG song on my Zune at once at least twice a year. But the last album I bought was Mink Car from 2001 and I wasn’t crazy about it (although “Cyclops Rock” and “Another First Kiss” are amazing songs). I’m still not.
Wait – I’m wrong. I bought NO!, Here Come the ABC’s, and Here Come the 123’s for Lil’ Troublemaker. But Mrs. Troublemaker does not like They Might Be Giants so we don’t listen to those very much. So actually, it looks like the only studio albums I’m missing are The Spine, The Else, and Join Us and I can tell you right now I remember when The Spine came out and I immediately thought of Mink Car and went, “Meh”.
But TMBG’s entire pre-Mink Car catalog is always in regular rotation for me and I’m still on their e-mailing list. So when I got the notification that if I Acted Now I could get all of the above goodies for forty-five bucks I Acted.
The playing cards seemed like the weirdest thing to me, so I’ll start with those. They were designed by an artist named Paul Sahre (who I am admittedly not familiar with). I didn’t really care about the cards and thought their MSRP of $15 was absurd. I don’t need playing cards at all, but if I did I’d just run over to Rite-Aid and spend a buck on them. As far as the concept of these being novelty playing cards, that’s not something I get. You can’t really frame them or display them in any meaningful way.
But the value of the rest of the stuff in the box easily exceeded the overall price, so I looked at the cards as a freebie.
Now that I have them in hand I can say that these are really cool little pieces of art. This isn’t just a deck of cards with different things drawn on them, it’s a completely redesigned concept. Clubs, Diamonds, Jacks, and Hearts have been replaced by Cryptids, Myths, Hoaxes, and Paranormal. Each new suit has its own icon as well as its own substitute for the Jack, King, and Queen:
It’s a cool concept, the art is very nice (reminds me a bit of Edward Gorey), and the cards themselves seem to be a good quality as far as my experience with such things goes. I can’t really say they’re worth fifteen bucks, but as an extra that was thrown in with this great bargain box of merch they’re pretty awesome.
The coffee mug is an item that I would once have been just as ambivalent about as the playing cards. I never drank coffee until I started working at my current job. But after my first week of eight hour classes listening to a man I have often referred to as human Ny-Quil, I knew I was going to have to start caffeinating. Once I started 12 hour shifts it became essential.
A couple of years ago we were the victims of a bunch of budget cuts and they stopped supplying Imodium, Ibuprofen, and a number of other pharmaceuticals; as well as paper coffee cups. I started bringing in a KISS Coffeehouse mug, but that thing is nearing the end of its useful life. I thought that a brand-new, stainless steel They Might Be Giants mug would be a fine replacement.
The mug is very basic. It’s a sturdy model with a gasket top rather than a screw-on. I’ve always preferred gasket tops. They seem more secure than most screw-ons. One side features the slightly Masonic “TMBG” logo that the band has been using for the past several years, the other features this comforting tagline:
I’m a little concerned about the durability of the printing and how it will hold up to repeated washings, but it seems pretty solid for now.
The Tony Millionaire t-shirt is a no-brainer. Band t-shirts are and have always been pricey, so I didn’t even blink at the $25 price. I particularly like this shirt for how much it vexes Mrs. Troublemaker. She is a big fan of Tony Millionaire - and Drinky Crow in particular - but can’t stand They Might Be Giants, so this shirt is very frustrating to her. It’s a high quality t-shirt with a great print job. My XXL fits the way I like XXLs to fit. It’s long enough and doesn’t bell out at the bottom.
The shirt and the DVD are where I felt like the practical value of the box was. While the flyers were an enticing addition, they were, after all, just photocopies. They might be neat to look at, but there’s no disputing that you can wear a shirt and watch a DVD. “Them Ain’t Big Eye Ants” is a compilation of various videos from 2004 to the present. I think they’re mostly from online projects. I watched it while I was wrapping Christmas presents the other night and enjoyed everything on it. I particularly liked their cover of Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” with the AV Club Chorus. I’m not a big fan of that band or that song, but the pure joy of that performance is infectious.
Actually, everything on this disc is good-to-great. It got me pumped up for They Might Be Giants again, to the point where I went and downloaded those missing albums.
The flyer reproductions and press photo came in this exciting envelope:
And were everything I hoped they would be and more. The press photo is just a neat glossy:
But the flyers are amazing. They range from press releases to what appear to be inserts for demos. The print quality is as good as it needs to be and there are a ton of the things! I couldn’t believe how many were in there. I’m sure it’s just a tiny fraction of what the band used in their early career, but I was really impressed. Here are my favorites:
I didn’t want to scan or take pictures of all of them because I feel kind of special for having them. If the Johns wanted these plastered all over the internet, they’d have done it themselves.
Finally, that brings us to the three Mystery Items!
First there is a Christmas air freshener:
I like the design a lot and I assume it smells Christmas-y in some way. I haven’t opened it because I am very sensitive to synthetic smells and don’t want to be aurally offended. This was a neat extra, a step above the sticker one might expect from this sort of thing.
Next up is a bumper sticker:
I know I might have been a little dismissive of stickers above, but they are perfectly acceptable freebies. I’m always stoked when a band or other entity sees fit to throw a sticker or two in with something I have ordered.
Finally, here is the cream of the Mystery Item crop – a set of four TMBG guitar picks featuring Paul Sahre’s Cryptid artwork:
I am a sucker for guitar picks. One of my absolute, most prized possessions is a Faith No More guitar pick from a 1997 show. I don’t have a collection or anything because I am not aggressive enough to run down picks when they get thrown into the audience. I only have the Faith No More one because I was working the stage at the show. But receiving this little packet of picks was a great bonus that actually made the playing cards seem a little more cool.
All in all this Holiday Bonus Box was totally worth it. As far as useful things I have a new t-shirt, a new coffee mug, and the DVD. I put the bumper sticker on my file cabinet and I think I’m going to figure out some neat way to frame some of the flyers, along with the picks and the playing cards. We’ll see.