The Stilloob Night Thread

I signed up for these OTs with the idea of doing a couple interconnected header, but realized tonight I want to put more effort into them. So, here’s a cool thing I love instead.

In 2020, the Before Times, They Might Be Giants began a tour for the 30th anniversary of “Flood” where they’d play the album in its entirety. Almost. “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” was excised from the setlist in favor of…

Stilloob.

Read that backwards. Say it out loud. Figure it out? If not, it’s “bullets” backwards. That’s because the band decided to learn how to play and sing the song entirely backwards. From John Flansburgh…

Simply because we were doing so many Flood shows, I was trying to think of how we could approach the material in new ways that would kind of sharpen up our focus, and push things beyond the music-under-glass issue of full album shows. It also struck me immediately as probably too hard, but JL and Marty seemed particularly intrigued by the very specific musical challenges that would come up trying to reproduce something that would actually scan properly played in reverse, so they were very game to dig in. I can’t recall how the short list was created initially, but I think we liked the idea of something with vocal harmony just to have that extra layer of musical interest, and doing a shorter song just so it wasn’t too much of an endurance test for us or the audience. The track itself (with its kind of palindromic guitar figure and busy rhythms) might seem a little unchanged from the original, but everybody faced the challenge head on. It’s still a work in progress-I haven’t really nailed all the lyrics-I think it is getting there.

Since we’re limited to one embed in the header, you’ll have to click through for the original recording. This embed is the first live version of Stilloob, and I picked this one because it reverses the reversed song and…son of a gun, it works. Those glorious madmen reversed a song in a live performance that is recognizable as the original if you play the backwards version backwards.

And, by the time I saw them in the Detroit stop, they’d perfected it even more, and the lyrics are noticeably clearer. Note the date of the show in that link; it was the unplanned last stop of the tour in 2020, and the last thing I did personally before everything shut down.

Have a good night, everybody!