Album Review: They Might Be Giants' 'Join Us'
“Quirky” and “eclectic” may be the two most overused words in music criticism, but longtime alternative-rock iconoclasts They Might Be Giants are part of the reason why: The duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell has embodied everything playful, absurdist and unpredictable in their 25-year recording career, from their choice of instrumentation (accordion, anyone?) to distinctively goofball, surrealist lyrics. “Join Us” is TMBG’s 15th full-length album (and first in four years geared to adults after a series of successful, Grammy-winning children’s music releases), and it finds the band returning to appropriately twee form.
Indeed, “Join Us” might be TMBG’s strongest set since their ’80s-era heyday represented by hits like “Don’t Let’s Start.” The album features 18 tracks and seemingly sprawls over as many genres and styles, such as the dada hip-hop of “The Lady and the Tiger” and the chiming psychedelic pop of “Old Pine Box,” all delivered with a manic grin. TMBG has retained its appealing trademark humor — lyrical references to Sleestacks and dogwalkers who actually wish they were dogs abound — but what impresses most is Flansburgh and Linnell’s ability to churn out cascades of earworm hooks. Every song teems with surprisingly memorable choruses, melodies, and, well, quirks that prove hard to forget; after such a deluge of stealthy and refined charms, resistance to the TMBG formula becomes futile.
They Might Be Giants
Three stars (Out of four)
— Matt Diehl