Arriving just a few months after their very enjoyable Indestructible Object EP, They Might Be Giants' The Spine is relatively disappointing, with fewer memorable moments spread out over its 16 songs. Perhaps tellingly, two of the album's best moments already appeared on Indestructible Object: "Memo to Human Resources" is a brief, bittersweet tune from John Flansburgh that, with witty lyrics like "then the people came to talk me down/but I don't need advice/I'm down" and gently weary harmonies, really captures the feeling of being a perpetual underdog. "Au Contraire," by contrast, finds a who's who of history and pop culture ranging from FDR to David Bowie getting a comeuppance.
Over the past 20 years, TMBG must have infuriated enormous numbers of people. This latest outing bristles with all the typical John Linnell/John Flansburgh trademarks - the excruciating wordplay, the neurotic hopping between musical styles, the reduction of various genres of classic pop to a smug mock-infantilism. Every now and again they hit on a promising musical idea, then ruin it.