Monday, December 6, 2010

A gorgeous Saturday afternoon drive up the Sea-to-Sky for the 10th anniversary of the Whistler Film Festival. Riding shotgun, what remained of my Gibsons cassette purchases, one of which, They Might Be Giants’s Flood (1990), provided accompaniment. Although the album got a lot of play upon its release (at parties and at night clubs), it wasn’t until this past weekend that I gave it my full attention, twenty years removed.

Besides its polished production, Flood is notable for its encapsulation of almost every popular musical genre to have taken root in the United States since the end of the 19th century. Blues, ragtime, vaudeville, old time, country and western, rock ‘n’ roll, calypso, zydeco, Muzak, raggae, power pop, dub, all are in evidence on this album. The same could be said of songwriters – from Stephen Foster to Captain Beefheart – not to mention literary modernists Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett.

As for the influence Flood might have had on those emerging, I can sense it in the music of the Barenaked Ladies, the angry sincerity of author Dave Eggers, the Beatrix Potter redux of visual artist Marcel Dzama, and the quirk-driven vignettes of filmmaker Miranda July.

Flood is too sophisticated to be filed under Conservative Postmodernism, concerned as it is with the environment, race relations, gender and class, all of which were in play, to varying degrees, at the festival.

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