Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Record label: Idlewild Recordings
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Doing any one thing for 30 years is really quite impressive, considering that I haven’t even been breathing that long. And to not only do something, but to continue to execute it with the same fervor and reliability since the beginning is an entirely different thing. They Might Be Giants’ 16th studio album, Nanobots, is a shining example of how it’s done.
They Might Be Giants’ long-running and successful experiment in alternative amusement has just reached new levels of awesome with their 16th studio album, called Nanobots. I’ve loved TMBG since Birdhouse in Your Soul and Istanbul (Not Constantinople) were released in their 1990 record Flood: they are, in a way, responsible for nudging me towards my first tottering declarations of adolescent autonomy, and towards a future love of all things alternative, punk and indie – I mean before each of these monikers eventually collapsed upon themselves in an implosion of counter-coolness. Here I am, 23 years later, still loving their quirky sense of humour, bad puns, and cool lyrics (who else could rhyme “etiquette with Connecticut”?).
They Might Be Giants seemed creatively revitalized with the release of 2011's Join Us, their first set of songs that were aimed at grown-ups -- or at least, that weren't obviously kid-focused -- in some time, and they continue that trend with Nanobots. As on Join Us, John Flansburgh and John Linnell often feel like they're riffing on their extensive discography as they deliver moments of pure comedy like the literal-minded album opener "You're on Fire" and educational tidbits such as the sweet song-biography "Tesla. " However, the clearest nod to the duo's past comes in the smattering of songs that clock in between a handful of seconds and just under a minute, echoing They Might Be Giants' Dial-A-Song roots as well as Apollo 18's "Fingertips" suite.
They Might Be GiantsNanobots(Idlewild)Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 If you went to college in a brief span from the late 80’s to the early 90’s, it’s likely that you came across a guy in your dorm who had a stash of Mystery Science Theater 2000 video tapes and a bunch of They Might Be Giants’ cassettes. Whether or not you befriended this character probably reveals how you felt about the odd yet ingratiating ditties concocted by John Flansburgh and John Linnell, the braintrust behind TMBG. For those who were willing to look beyond the nerdy trappings and the self-deprecating band name, there was undeniable pleasure to be had in the mathematical melodies and harmonies that the Johns were peddling.
Mixing humour with music is a risky path, but one TMBG have navigated successfully for nearly 30 years, most notably with the Malcolm In The Middle-soundtracking ‘Boss Of Me’. The Massachusetts-via-Brooklyn band’s millionth album begins with a handful of weedy Weezer impressions and familiar whimsical geekery. Songs about Nikola Tesla, inflammable heads and Black Ops – amusingly described as “holidays for secret cops” – pass by pleasantly enough.
They Might Be Giants are in a comfortable and casual phase of their career now, because, well, were they ever not? The indie pop rock vets are reentering the universe after a decade-long checkout from the game, during which they put out a series of children’s albums, perhaps heeding the adage about having to go away in order to come back — but more likely because of course they did. Long before Here Come the ABC’s, there was always a charming “ABC” philosophy central to TMBG’s songcraft: chords and melodies light on supplement, well articulated vocals and tracking, and a penchant for storytelling – which never loosened its grip on the absurd and utterly goofy, cultivating a signature brand of nonsense rock via no-nonsense songwriting. This point-blank approach that made them great children’s composers was the same quality that inspired no shortage of contemporary songwriting-focused rock bands – including Titus Andronicus, who slipped in a subtle reference to “Particle Man” in their latest album.