Phoning It In: “What Did I Do To You?” “Definition of Good,” “Trouble Awful Devil Evil”


They Might Be Giants have resurrected their ingenious Dial-A-Song concept by streaming a new song each week of 2015 at MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch reviews them all.

Weekly email notifications of new Dial-A-Song entries have begun to take on a hectoring tone as the posts again fail to keep pace with the song production. You win, Johns. But let this colder air steel my spirits. Let’s get industrious.

“What Did I Do To You?” is arguably the best song about phantom limbs since the Shins’ “Phantom Limb.” What sheltered microcosm allows that sentence to be typed and published, I can’t bear to ponder. More interesting is “Definition Of Good,” which is one puzzle piece away from being a great song. The vocal melody has to switch up at some point (it’s kind of like the Peyton Manning “Nationwide is on your side” commercial*) and surely something could be done about the vocal pacing, which leaves all kinds of uncomfortable pauses at the end of lines. There’s still something very likeable about this song, though, which gives rise to this week’s Insane And Unsolicited Advice: Make another version of “Definition Of Good” with different vocals. As we wonder whether the protagonist of “Trouble Awful Devil Evil” was bitten by a vampire or simply fell into a bottomless pit (a conundrum that’s dogged all our families for generations), it’s worth noting that it’s a very good song.

And with that astute criticism, let’s round up the post-Glean winners. These are songs worth downloading for 99 cents or whatever. Ranked in order of recollection:

“And Mom And Kid”
“Impossibly New”
“I Am Invisible”
“Rock Club”
“I Made A Mess”
“Trouble Awful Devil Evil”

*There’s a moment in one of those commercials when Manning is regarding a bobblehead version of himself and he intones, “Do I really look like that?” There is something very sad about it. It’s like a Smiths song.

“What Did I Do To You?”: 4
“Definition Of Good”: 6
“Trouble Awful Devil Evil”: 7