Illustration of Constance Binney from the cover of Filmplay magazine, June 1922
I hope this proves once and for all that these tracks are really randomly selected - there's no way I would have voluntarily chosen to right about a 22 second song by They Might Be Giants today! But, how that the opportunity presents itself, I'll "stan" for TMBG. I don't think it's their nerdish charm and cleverness that makes them important to me, either - I love Apollo 18, the album that "Fingertips" comes from, even though at the time, it was their least successful in terms of presenting memorable and funny novelty songs. However, it is a great pop album that features some of their strongest straightforward songwriting. Songs like "Which Describes How You're Feeling", "See the Constellation", and "The Statue Got Me High" are as catchy as anything they ever wrote. And then there's "Fingertips", which is a clinic on writing pop hooks in the form of 21 song snippets.
Some of the "Fingertips" tracks are as short as five seconds, but each one has a self-contained hook and a memorable line or two of lyrics. When I first bought this album as a kid, I would do as the liner notes suggested and put the album on "random play" so that one or two of the snippets would play between each full-length song, creating a Who Sell Out sort of feel. "Fingertips 19 (I'm Having a Heart Attack)" is one of my favorites in the collection, and has a lot of nice little things in its 22 seconds. Electric piano and a neat bassline play under a surprisingly emotive vocal, ending with a nice big drum-fill-to-nowhere.
Listening to "Fingertips" now and thinking about the songwriting skills of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, I'm tempted to pontificate judgmentally on what happened in the years following Apollo 18. But the truth is that I just stopped paying attention as much as anything else. Just listen to this 22-second track a couple times (I'm sure you have 44 seconds to spare) and you can really hear and appreciate the craft that went into making it.
"Fingertips 19 (I'm Having a Heart Attack)" by They Might Be Giants