Today on the way to the doctor’s to get her H1N1 booster shot, Siena wanted to listen to No! by They Might Be Giants. We used to listen to this all the time. One of the songs, “Robot Parade,” has very sparse instrumentation on the album: Just two vocals and a synthesizer with a jazz organ sound.
This was the only version of the song that Siena knew until she started watching the Here Come The ABC’s DVD more frequently. Once you plow through the letter-related songs on that DVD, there are a handful of songs “that aren’t about letters,” including a studio version of “Robot Parade.” In this version, the full band is present, so in addition to the vocals and organ there are drums, bass, and guitar. The song is also much more lively and improvised; the band is clearly just jamming away and having fun. It should be noted that in both versions of the song, the vocals are heavily processed and always in harmony; in the video version there is only one singer and his voice is pushed through an auto-harmonizer that adds his voice higher up on every note, which makes it sound very mechanical.
No! has largely fallen out of the CD rotation, so it had been a while since Siena heard the album version of the song.
Her comment upon listening to the sparser, more vocal-oriented version in the car today:
“I don’t think They Might Be Giants are singing this. I think the robots are singing.”
Indeed, I had never interpreted the sound as being sung by the robots themselves, so now I need to go back and listen to it again with that in mind. And I for one welcome our new robot overlords.