Andrew Horowitz glances side to side on a TV screen.

let us sing.

Some thoughts on every Tally Hall song written by Andrew Horowitz.

MMMM / G&E

MMMM

Good Day

In my mind, this song is the face of Tally Hall. To be fair, that's probably largely because of the music video. (Which is unparalleled in my mind, by the way. Every frame is a masterpiece and it's information-packed without being overwhelming. It's kind of a perfect introduction to the band. 10/10, worth getting beat up after dusk in a public park for.)
Despite being diametrically opposed on the color wheel, red and green tie have some interesting songwriting similarities. The cryptic, wandering, atmospheric lyrics (though red's word choice goes disorientingly complex where green goes eerily simple) and different "movements" within a song are on display here. I've heard the lyrics described as "like predictive text wrote them", but after seeing an early version of the lyrics I feel like their robotic effect might be the result of editing them to sound more impersonal. Notable changes I spotted:

we can go and take a walk or something like that
if it snows or pours or birds (???) from the sky i'll give you my hat
-
he never liked to run or walk or sleep or eat
he even thought that everybody thought that he's some kind of freak
-
birds & bees & television, you & me and x ray vision, chocolates, flowers, extra hours (???) and no more powers, telephones & stupid games, periods & exclamation marks!

The "birds and bees" outro is without a doubt my favorite part of the song. A very nice person I met on Reddit once tried explaining how cool this section is from a music theory perspective... something about how it's either 3 (I-IV-II-V) transitions or 6 (I-IV) transitions, key center shifting the whole time. That's mostly beyond me but I know it sounds cool! Aside from all the technicalities, it's just super catchy and inviting. A friend once compared the opening portion to All Star.
This song won a scholarship for Andrew. Good! It deserves it.

Taken for a Ride

I'm a very visual person, so maybe I'm against swayed by the music video. But this song I tend to think of as "basically Good Day but I like it 5% less".
The song form is something like ABABCABCCD to Good Day's AABCBCDE structure. It's a minute and a half longer than Good Day, and feels way more repetitive, because each A-section repeats the same melody 4 times. There's some nice lyrics in there, but they're even more cryptic than the clearly intentional nonsense of Good Day, and they're kind of lost underneath the vocoder effect. The song tries to offset the repeat with a grand, cinematic buildup, but it just gets to be too sonically busy for me and the last ABC section I gets mushy in my brain.
So far I've just been listing things I don't like about it. I do like this song! But all the things I like about it are things I also like about Good Day. Not a bad song, it just has some really stiff competition. My favorite part, musically, is the sudden return to simplicity in "actor with his world renown was thinking about his last real day of silence", particularly that pristine pause before "was it over?" My favorite lyric is

all feeling now, he took his bow and left the stage of time
with no answers
to no questions.

Two Wuv

This song is a "NO WAY, ANDREW WROTE IT?" moment for pretty much everyone when they find out. The song's bizarre, creepy humor fits right into the Tally Hall wheelhouse, but in a way that you'd expect from red or yellow tie. It's a song that almost requires the full band's sound anyways. I just can't imagine Andrew's soft voice landing the joke. Even the Internet Show episode based around this song has no mention that it was Andrew's idea, letting Zubin shoulder the Olsen twin jokes on his own.
It might also be that musically, this song is pretty conventionally rock. It's got one powerful, memorable riff and sticks with it. The melody and rhythm always reminds me of Island in the Sun, to the point where I wonder if it was intentional. The one part that sticks out as unmistakably Andrew's handiwork is the bridge, with the interesting musical transition in/out and the lyrics being childishly simple to the point of being mildly unnerving:

i know that
life without you & you would be
sad
and i know it'd be bad

The strangest misconception I've seen stated around is that this song was originally written unironically when he was 9 years old. I can't prove that's false, but I haven't found any evidence that it's true. I just severely doubt it.

The Whole World And You

A Toy Orchestra song! The big band sound of the recording preserves the pure chaotic joy of the original sing-along format. More songs should have tuba. There's just scientifically nothing wrong with this song. It's short, it's simple, it's perfect.
The lyrics to this song have kept me guessing for a while. The spirit of the song and the instrumentation feels so genuine, but the music video, reveals a strange political bent. It's been suggested that this song is a parody of a concession speech. It's a credit to the music video that it made me rethink my original assumptions about the song's meaning like that. Shoutout to the director, Frankie Cordero, whoever that is. (Update: after googling, he's part of the Jim Henson company! Cool!)
But is that interpretation just the byproduct of an interesting video? The only place I detect sarcasm in the song's delivery is

i've even written this whole song about you
and not about me
not about me

What keeps me from dismissing it outright is that Andrew is known to write "sweet" lyrics ironically (Two Wuv) and obscure political commentaries (Misery Fell). I just hear his cheerful lisp and immediately want to take every word at face value. Who knows! I'll probably be debating this to myself till I die, and that's okay. Getting a straight answer would be disappointing at this point.

Dream

Gee, every single one of his songs on MMMM has a music video, doesn't it? Good.
Full disclosure: I was a choir and a capella kid in high school. My first exposure to this band was through an a capella cover I saw live. I love Tally Hall as an a capella group first and a rock band second, and boy, does this song pander to me in that way. I have nothing intelligent to say about this song other than that I like it, and I will never be over the primary color guys' vocal blend. It makes me fantasize about being in Andrew Horowitz's shoes as he composed this, knowing that every chord would be interpreted by this angelic choir. I love how he could take his pick of the band's vocal palette to serve each song when writing with Tally Hall.

Good & Evil

Misery Fell

I really, really like Misery Fell. It starts simple and builds up more effectively than Taken For A Ride, probably because it starts more modestly and therefore can go further without feeling like it's pushing it. The la la-la la-las have a wonderful, giddy building feeling.
The lyrics have a political bent much clearer than Whole World and You. It seems to be, vaguely, about community-focused political reform, and maybe prison abolition? Something about replacing a punitive system with community. As always, the sincerity of the overwhelmingly cute, sweet lyrics remains a little ambiguous, more so because their writer isn't singing them. (I always remember a rather cruel review I read which calls Zubin's vocals bored-sounding. I think that's dumb. His vocal delivery is great for the already subdued song, and you'd better believe that Zubin values every chance he gets to sing lead.)
In classic Tally Hall fashion, we again have an unexpected coda that feels like it ends abruptly enough to leave you on the edge of your seat. As I've said before, I don't know much music theory, but I do know enough to know that something funky is going on there as the key center changes something like 6 times in a row, crawling incrementally up and down. Singing along to that bit is such a delightful challenge until you get the hang of it.

all the fresh living flowers
that spend all their hours
outside in the rain
just so happy you came
from so far for so long
with a welcoming song just to say,
to say...

...to say hello and welcome you good day that is my name, perhaps?

You

One of the reasons it took me so long to realize Andrew was my favorite is because his distinctive voice lends itself to the softest, sincerest songs, and "low-energy" is not my strong suit. Love song with solo piano is a notch or two above sadboy with acoustic guitar in my book, but only a notch. The first couple of times I heard this song, I pretty much entirely tuned it out because it wasn't up to my default energy level. And then I got into the habit of skipping it entirely.
This song still isn't a favorite, just due to personal taste, not as an opinion on its quality. But I feel like I can appreciate it more for what it is now. The song asks politely for your attention instead of demanding it. I'm glad I finally slowed down to give it the attention it deserves.

It's lulling, but not quite predictable enough to be boring. It's definitely written by a clasically trained pianist. I enjoy the moment of dissonance coming out of the bridge before it resolves back. None of the words particularly capture me (to be honest I barely process them) but like a lot of his lyrics, they speak kindly and personally to the listener and seem to invite you on a trip across some larger landscape.
I find myself listening to the vocal delivery more than the words themselves. His singing is so different from the polished, produced honey-smooth blend of the main trio. It audibly shakes a little and stretches thin on high notes. It reminds me of the feeling of a moth landing on your hand: very gentle, delicate, fluttery. Easily brushed off, but nice to hold if you have a moment.

Fate of the Stars

I really thought Andrew had more than 3 songs on G&E. Maybe this is why I like MMM more as an album. Not only that, but he is severely backloaded into the last 15 minutes.
Like "You", this is a song that I just didn't get at first. I have even more difficulty with long songs than I have with slow songs. Then one night I listened to this song lying down in the dark and it blew my entire mind.

Like several other songs here, it starts with a verse/chorus structure and after only 2 repeats goes into a bridge and then an unexpected outro without ever returning to the chorus. The sections of this song are so distinct they're almost "movements".
Movement 1 begins with solo piano, as if to announce itself as an Andrew number. God only knows what the lyrics are supposed to mean, but they serve more just to carry the fantastic energy of the chanting and tempo buildup and god do I love that vocal blend. The resolution is so satisfying, the sound and the meaning coming together:

no control pumping heart
button pressed mind in art
mind con trol
mind re start

Movement 2's insane arpeggio always reminds me of one of those spinning LED toys. It's probably the coolest sound in the entire TH discography. Then there's that beautiful, ominous piano interlude. Between this bit and the lyrical theme, I'll eat my hat if this song didn't have a hand in inspiring The Mind Electric.
Movement 3 closes out the album with some nice, soft Andrew vocals again. If you see me suppressing a yawn, it's a yawn of love, I swear. Again, in a compositional trick common to both red and green tie, the outro seems to cut off before its resolution.

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