They Might Be Giants
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2004, Volume 11, #10
Written by T.J. Simon
Relentlessly catchy, quirky, and weird, itís hard to dislike the music put forth by John Linnell and John Flansburgh, the braintrust behind They Might Be Giants. The groupís infectious, nerd-rock oddities are often hard to comprehend and always harder to forget. Even so, its 20-year shelf life has been nothing short of amazing considering that the duo has, at times, been precariously close to veering into the world of novelty acts. Indeed, the bandís albums frequently have been peppered with more than a dash of whimsy, to which its 10th outing The Spine is certainly no exception.
In essence, The Spine is a guitar-pop record with some space-y synth arrangements, joyous horns, and lots of wittily bizarre lyrics, but unlike They Might Be Giantsí earlier works, accordions play no significant role. The albumís best wordplay occurs on Au Contraire, a fun-filled endeavor that references David Bowie, Franklin Roosevelt, Jodie Foster, and Mahatma Gandhi, while the collectionís finest music can be found within the extravagant horn-orgy Museum of Idiots. Other noteworthy numbers include the jaunty Experimental Film and the new-wave throwback Thunderbird. As for the rest of the outing, itís filled with innocuous pop and half-baked mini-songs, which could have withstood more time in the bandís idea incubator.
Those familiar with They Might Be Giantsí past releases already have a reasonable sense about what The Spine is, and as such, fans of the band generally will be pleased. On the other hand, those not already on board with the groupís quirky behavior will find 1990ís Flood or 1992ís Apollo 18 as worthier introductions to this eccentric mainstay. Ĺ
The Spine is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box