My first experiences with They Might Be Giants date back to around 1991 with their third album Flood. It was something COMPLETELY different than anything I had heard at the time. Heck, it's completely different than anything I've heard since! I played that CD to death. Not only was it quirkier that a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle, but you could actually understand all the words and sing along with each and every song. I can remember years later driving up to New Hampshire to go backpacking for a weekend and the person who was driving had Flood on tape in the bottom of her glove compartment for me to dig out. We popped that in and the whole car sang the whole album from beginning to end. It was just that kind of album.
I bought the next couple of albums after Flood, Apollo 18 and John Henry, and I enjoyed them, but they never quite topped Flood for me (the whole first album phenomenon - you absolutely love the first album you hear from a band and nothing after ever quite lives up to your expectations - anyone out there know what I'm talking about?). Since then I've also seen the band live probably more times than I've seen any other band play and good times are guaranteed at their shows. They've always kept it affordable, too, which I've got to commend them for. It's hard to believe that they've been around for 25 years!
So enough with my reminiscing, on to the matter at hand. And in this case, the matter at hand is titled The Else, and it's the Giants' newest creation that is scheduled to be released July 10th. It's been a while since I've been an avid listener of the band, so it was with some small trepidation that I pressed play on this album (the whole first CD phenomenon let down that I talked about before).
Listening to John and John sing brought back some memories for sure. Since I haven't listened to their last few (although I do want to pick up their kids albums to play for my daughter) I'm not sure of their development since the late 90's. What I can say about this album though is that it seems to be more straight out indie rock compared to what I remember. While the voices and lyrics of the two Johns are still there and recognizably quirky, the instrumentation on it is much more standard drums, guitar, bass. At about track 9, you can hear some horns taking semi-prominent places in the song structure, but these days, horns are fairly common fare. It's not until the final two tracks (Feign Amnesia and The Mesopotamians, which is offered below) that the group reaches their stride that I remember from Flood days, and consequently initially found the warmest place in my heart. Final verdict: it's taken a few listens and I've had to set aside my initial preconceived expectations, but TMBG's new sound is growing on me.
If you have LOTS of time to kill, check out both of the band's websites linked to below. There is a whole smorgasbord of things to do: podcasts, live shows that you can purchase, unreleased songs to download, videos to watch, ringtones for your phone, etc. etc. etc...
They Might Be Giants - With The Dark : The Else
They Might Be Giants - The Mesopotamians : The Else
They Might Be Giants - Dig My Grave : Apollo 18
They Might Be Giants - Particle Man : Flood