On the front cover, McSweeny’s #6 claims “We Now Know Who”, and nothing else. McSweeney’s is a literary journal, more or less, but #6 was an Art (and Music) volume. The idea was to provide a soundtrack for the artwork and short stories, and the result was an interesting amalgamation of words, pictures, and fingertips.
On one hand, the journal by itself has good content, for the most part. There are some dry bits, but no journal can be overflowing with perfection every quarter. According to the introduction in the beginning, the original intent was to fill this volume of the journal with nothing but art, with no words at all. This idea was abandoned quickly, and the art and music (and words) version was conceived.
And on the other hand, the enclosed CD has a lot to like on it. Most of the tracks were composed by They Might be Giants, but there were a number of other artists as well. Most of the music was composed in an attempt to match the theme (and duration) of the work it was to accompany, though some of the tracks were old TMBG songs, such as “Edith Head” or “West Virginia”. And a few of the pieces of Art and Stories were composed after the song had been written, such as in the case of “Bangs” (which I found to be the most enjoyable story/song combination). All in all, it’s a very likeable CD. With 44 tracks, the CD works great on random play, much like Apollo 18′s fingertips.
The problem I have with the whole package, though, is the stories. I had a very hard time to trying to listen to the song for a piece while reading it. Also, though they tried to write songs that matched the length of a piece, it’s an impossible goal, and most of the time the song was over long before I was done, which just made me irritable.
But, it was a very good attempt. The songs and the art went very well together. When I listened to the CD, the songs I liked best were the ones that happened to pair up with short stories. But when I read the journal while listening to the soundtrack, the best songs were the ones that accompanied the art. Amazing how significant context can be in the appreciation of something. I’d recommend trying it out… It’s interesting.
And there’s nothing sadder than a frog plucking a banjo.