Ten Smart and Musically Satisfying Geek Tracks | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Ten Smart and Musically Satisfying Geek Tracks

image courtesy: 120years.net

This is a geek site. We like geeky things. And as geeks, there are many artists out there producing music explicitly aimed at us. As it turns out, a lot of it comes off as an adult geek’s version of The Wiggles, chock-a-block with puns and gratuitous references to WoW or TI-83s. This is especially true to those who do not get the references. Contrast this with a geeky song like Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” (which is a total LotR lovefest) and you’ll see where I’m heading. Because of this disparity, I have come up with a short list of tracks which are musically satisfying on their own, but also have some added element to satiate our need for smart.

Hit the jump and we’ll delve in.

I work from home so my (NSFW) meter might be different than yours. Please just assume this is like listening to the main podcast. Also assume that I think it is hilarious when people scramble for headphones or a mute button in their cubicle.

And if you’ve read ahead, you’ll notice that I’m leaving out satire/comedy tracks. I’m also looking at deep cuts and not just going for obvious choices like They Might Be Giants, Zappa, MC Frontalot, Weird Al, JoCo, Rush, etc.

So, here we go, ten tracks in no particular order.

01) The Turing Machine—”Swiss Grid”

The Turing Machine is definitely sans chaff. Not only is their name inherently geeky, but having song titles rooted in science…be still my heart. This song, “Swiss Grid“,  references the system used by Swisstopo for maps. I only know that because I bought this album. I have also developed a brain crush on Alan Turing, so win-win-win. While these are nice factoids, what really matters is that  The Turing Machine is an absolutely amazing band (the late Jerry Fuchs is one of my favorite drummers of all time).


02) Drive Like Jehu—”Do You Compute”

Drive Like Jehu is one of my top bands. I absolutely love them. Admittedly, the only thing really geeky about this song is use and repetition of “compute”, but it’s hard to say that and not sound like a geek, right? They have other songs about rome plows and one called “New Math” so I’m saying they make the list.


03) Man or Astro-Man?—”Maximum Radiation Level”

It may seem like cheating having two tracks by this band on the list. It isn’t. I would have a hard time picking the 10 best Man or Astro-Man? songs alone. Man or Astro-Man? has a fascinating history rife with geek cred. I’ve seen them set a theremin on fire live as well as composing for and “playing” a line printer.  Plus, they perform in space suits surrounded by wires and cables and televisions, oh my!


04) Man or Astro-Man?—“A Simple Text File”

This song could easily be filed as a novelty, one of those songs you play for your friends and chortle. Most people would have just recorded the printer for a few seconds and then cut, warped, and twisted that audio to make a minute or two of cheek. Well, remember when I said they play the printer…welp…I’ve seen it. They play this song live, with real green bar paper.


05) Boards of Canada–”Music is Math”

This is another literal pick. Boards of Canada have plenty of geek-titled tracks referencing modus ponens and mneumonic devices which were in the running. The video for “Music is Math” just set this apart as something to share.


06) Mastadon—”Crack the Skye”

Mastadon tends to release albums tied by a concept, we’ve seen the element themes earth, water, and air (Blood Mountain, Leviathan, and Crack the Skye respectively). With the Crack the Skye album they give us tracks about Rasputin, astral travel, and Stephen Hawking’s theories. There is a full story throughout the album, but I’ll leave some things for you to discover.


07) Trans Am—”Future World”

Another song clearly based in sci-fi. The video is a wonderful lo-fi Bill and Ted’s meets Tron experience. With “Future World”, Trans Am’s krautrock influence is evident and somehow conjures up images of trash ’80s rocking out (or is that just me?).


08) Shellac—”Canaveral”

Yes, this song title is a reference to Cape Canaveral, and therefore a reference to the space shuttle launches and astronauts. This on the list for being a tremendous example of smart angst, however. Bust these lyrics:

Blow him up into space

He’ll fertilize the rice in China

With the cinders of his remains

…and then guitarist/singer Steve Albini mentions isthmus, fjord, and archipelago. Those are difficult enough to work in to a song if you are just being silly.


09) Zombi—”Orion”

The album is titled Cosmos. All of the songs reference major components of the cosmos. Zombi is a yinz-based synth and drums duo and this album would be absolutley amazing if played at the Buhl Planetarium.


10) Minibosses—”Mega Man Medley”

Since you’ve made it this far, your reward is Minibosses! Look at the name. Look at the song title. Watch the video. ‘Nuff Said.

There are 4 comments.

  1. StonedApe84 said on June 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Tool “Lateralus” Maynard sings and the band plays in a kind of Fibonacci sequence… oh yeah and it rocks

  2. JD said on June 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Good call! There are a bunch… I’d love to see everyone else’s additions!

  3. Andrew said on June 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Uh, hello? A list of subtly geeky and incredibly musically satisfying tracks that doesn’t include anything from Muse? I almost didn’t run the thing…. 😛

    Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations is, itself, a revelation. Uprising is a sonic retelling of Orwell’s 1984 with a modern guitar crunch. For my money, it’s hard to get any geekier than these guys without diving straight into the strictly geeky bands. For the best taste of their geeky concepts mixed with their Queen-style rock roots, check out the song Exo-Politics.

  4. Conor said on June 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Dude. Led Friggin Zeppelin.

    More Tolkien and Fantasy references than Peter Jackson’s wet dreams.

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