Nine Bands That Nerds Like

They Might Be Giants

What sort of music does the average nerd groove to? Hard to say. In this DJ-infested era, there are plenty of self-proclaimed "nerds" who have taken to the turntables and become huge stars with the club crowd. But real nerds tend to gravitate away from that which suggests sexuality, anger, soul, or coolness, and toward music drenched with humor, harmlessness, and literary pretensions. (Nerds also, of course, love soundtracks.) So whereas geeks can revel in everything from Weird Al to Megadeth to Rush to Mr. Bungle, the humble nerd, more often than not, is into...

  1. They Might Be Giants. The dorkiest duo of all time (one of them even plays the accordion!), TMBG had a minor hit with "Birdhouse in Your Soul". Their songs are best described as something you'd hear on Sesame Street. Silly, tragically unfunky white boys.
  2. Ween. When TMBG fans go to college, they are finally allowed to buy music that their moms don't need to pre-approve, and so they turn to Ween, a talented but slightly sick duo who could be called the Coen Brothers of pop music. Ween provide plenty of uneasy laughs, but who listens to them seriously?
  3. Oingo Boingo. Most people who worship Tim Burton also love Oingo Boingo, not only because lead singer Danny Elfman scored nearly every Burton film, but because of the weird allure that dancing skeletons hold for nerds. In short: Party + "Dead Man's Party" playing on the stereo = Nerd Party.
  4. The Beatles. Sure, nearly everybody likes the Beatles. But many nerds go through a particularly intense "Beatles phase", usually at around 14, when they suddenly come across the Fab Four's enormous catalog and feel like they're the first ever to discover their genius.
  5. XTC. The "Beatles phase" wears off at around 17, when the nerd matures a little bit and seeks out other great music. An older nerd may turn them on to XTC, who sound more like the Beatles than any other band. They chose the wrong Beatle to emulate, Paul, but that's immaterial. Bald, bespectacled, doughy, and stricken with severe stagefright, XTC frontman Andy Partridge is the nerdiest pop singer alive.
  6. Tori Amos. For nerd girls and the boys who love them, Tori is a beacon in the fog. Vague, bohemian, sexy in an artsy way, and friends with comic book writers, she is a goddess for the tender maturing nerd.
  7. Talking Heads. David Byrne proved to the world that eggheads can get down and funky too. Retro nerds who still listen to the Heads also prefer other '80s nerds like DEVO and Elvis Costello.
  8. Robyn Hitchcock. I was a big fan of Robyn Hitchcock as a teen. Another English eccentric of the Andy Partridge variety (though slightly cooler), Hitchcock's music is best described as "Beatles meets Monty Python". Safe to say, you will see no crowd surfing or slamdancing at a Robyn Hitchcock concert.
  9. Belle & Sebastian. Today's hip young sweater-clad nerd goes for this quiet, cute Scottish collective, who sound a bit like Donovan, but there's something catchy in their '60s-pop-flavored ditties. I like Belle & Sebastian. But then, I run my own website and obsessively write lists, so there you go.