February 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

They Might Be Giants Resurrect ‘Dial-a-Song’

they might be giants

In anticipation of their forthcoming album Nanobots, coming out on March 5, They Might Be Giants have released a new (free, iOS) app that streams a different song from the band’s vast repertoire each day.

The app is the latest incarnation of the band’s version of the legendary Dial-A-Song service. For those who don’t remember, Dial-A-Song began as a phone service running from 1983 to 2006. You could call a Brooklyn-based phone number and listen to a different They Might Be Giants song recorded on the answering machine each day, provided that the notoriously fickle machine was functioning.

Time marches onward.

In 2000, the band launched a web version of the service at dialasong.com, which was much more reliable than the Brooklyn answering machine. However, the band eventually stopped posting songs and used it podcasts.

Now, Dial-A-Song is back for the mobile age. Like its predecessors, the new They Might Be Giants app features a different song each day, with five songs playable at any given time. Each one links to iTunes, so you can easily purchase what you hear. You can also access the band’s blog, podcasts, and social media pages.

If you disregard the whole Dial-A-Song history, this app may not seem novel. An artist-specific app with free streaming music? Been there, done that.

What’s more fascinating is that They Might Be Giants were already doing this in the ’80s, using the technology of the time. Before giving music away for free was practically a requirement, the band saw the promotional value of letting fans access their music for free and without having to go anywhere — over phone lines, no less.

Now that we’re finally in the future, this app lacks the quaint feel of that the phone service, which is both good and bad. Unlike the answering machine, it doesn’t crash, which is nice. However, the content is a bit more generic, featuring only studio versions of previously released songs, which any They Might Be Giants fan would already have or could easily get their hands on. The phone service, on the other hand, featured unique versions of songs recorded on the answering machine cassette tape — a real treat for fans who already have everything else.

All in all, this is a nice little app for existing and would-be fans of They Might Be Giants, although it would be even better with ’80s-style fresh content.

Pro tip: Check out the mystery feature by tapping the question mark.