They Might Be Giants

Ana Ng

Composed by They Might Be Giants

Song Review by

Dedicated to one of the shortest female names in existence, "Ana Ng" was the first single and leadoff track from They Might Be Giants' second album, 1988's Lincoln. The jerky stop-start syncopation in its main riff made "Ana Ng" one of the most guitar-driven songs in the group's early oeuvre, although it's a little too tense and geeky to be called an aggressive rocker. Still, there's a certain authority in the heavy, stomping rhythmic accents, one that's striking in relation to the group's typical persona, but which isn't quite separate from it. The chorus has a lighter feel, but the rapidly skittering, distorted synth maintains the song's forward drive, with a tambourine-like rhythmic effect. Also subtly important to the arrangement's textures is John Linnell's accordion, which either fills in the spaces left by the noisy guitars, or plays in unison for extra emphasis. The lyrics are typically playful, seemingly free-associative, and full of obscure references (i.e., the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair). The first verse actually sounds like an oblique meditation on American imperialism in the Far East, with an image that recalls the old wives' tale about being able to tunnel straight through the earth to China; in this case, though, the tunneling is done through a globe with a bullet, which leaves an "exit wound in a foreign nation." The lyrics' syntax is elongated and convoluted, as one prepositional phrase after another gets tacked on; it's a subtle expression of the group's sense of humor, as is the repetition of the line about everything sticking like a broken record (broken records skip and repeat the same thing over and over...get it?). And to top it off, the chorus is all about how the singer and the title character have never met, and probably never will, since they're getting old. The total package is a masterpiece of pop absurdism.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Lincoln 1988 Restless Records 3:23
MTV: Best of 120 Minutes, Vol. 1 1991
Various Artists
Going Underground [Eurostar] 1992
Various Artists
Eurostar 3:24
Indie Top 20, Vol. 7 1993
Various Artists
Dutch East India Trading 3:21
Then: The Earlier Years 1997 Restless Records 3:23
Severe Tire Damage 1998 Columbia 2:59
The Best of the Early Years 1999 BMG Special Products 3:22
Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants 2002 Rhino 3:21
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 3:20
A User's Guide to They Might Be Giants 2005 Rhino / Elektra 3:21
blue highlight denotes editor's pick