10/09/2007

so I got a bunch of free CDs recently. One of them is "The Else," the 12th album by They Might Be Giants. Like many people of generation Y or whatever it is my generation is called these days, I used to be a huge fan of TMBG, having all their albums up to "Mink Car." At that point, and also like a lot of people my age, my interest started to wane. I still appreciate them but I never really listen to any of it anymore, and while the newer music is solid, to me it lacks that quirky fire their old stuff used to have. That's understandable, considering they, and their audience, have aged and even matured (arguably not in my case though).

This album is mostly solid pop songs, pretty straightforward musically but with the trademark quirky/hard to understand lyrics. It doesn't seem too earth-shattering the first time I listened to it, but many of the songs grew on me with repeated listens. "Climbing the Walls," an ode to working, sounds like it could have been on the "John Henry" album, but has one of the Johns (can never tell which is which) expanding his vocal range, which is neat to hear.

"Take Out the Trash" is led by bouncy bass, "With the Dark" varies genres and kooky bits quickly, and "I'm Impressed" has a more indie rock sound than I'm used to from them. "The Shadow Government" is one of the better tracks on the album, it's more overtly political than most of their songs, wishing the shadow government had taken over the U.S., and it reminds me of Teenage Fanclub with the refrain "it's a bad bad world." Plus the song starts with the line "driving home from my meth lab," which is pretty funny.

"Bee of the Bird of the Moth" is typical goofiness, as the title attests, and "The Mesopotamians" is this album's "James K. Polk" or "Meet James Ensor," songs about relatively obscure people. This one talks about ancient kings of the area and some other historical places, like Mohenjo-Daro. However, it's not quite as interesting musically as those two previous songs and kind of seems like a retread, trying to be fun and random like the others, but not working.

But it's a solid album, and I liked it more than I thought I would. The songs grow on you and it has the usual good musicianship and songwriting of their other albums. Check it out if you were a TMBG fan, you might like them again.

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