Before being a band from Brooklyn was even cool, They Might Be Giants (aka John Flansburgh and John Linnell) busted out from this borough with a unique sound all to their own. Having seen them with the amazing and always funny John Hodgman live in ’09, I was instantly excited to check out the latest from these nerd rockers. They celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band with their 15th studio album, Join Us, released July 19, 2011 as well as a taking on a six country and 50 US city tour this Fall (California show dates in November).

The album starts off with a solid string of catchy tunes and as of my second listen I was hooked. There’s the upbeat pop rock of “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” the choppy “You Probably Get That a Lot” and the short, sweet folk pop of “Old Pine Box.” TMBG do have a few kids’ albums out but Join Us falls under the adult album category, due to adult language and content. Not for swear words and sex though (get your mind out of the gutter) but for exploring topics like death in “When Will You Die” and using big words such as “surmise” and referencing Sleestaks and Duende. Song titles also take a turn for the unusual with “Canajoharie” and “Cloisonné.” Even if you were born before the 90s be sure to have a dictionary and Wikipedia tab up while you’re listening. However, the transitions between these two songs, a handclap driven alternative rock to a tuba infused jump starter are as smooth as they are odd.

Two of my favorite tracks on the album are “Let Your Hair Hang Down,” a power pop palette pleaser and the instant dance party starter “Celebration,” which features a sweet drum breakdown and some high pitched Bee Gee’s-esque singing.  No musical genre escapes TMBG either and the horn driven hip-hop beat and lazy vocal swagger of “The Lady and the Tiger” was a pleasant surprise. They come full circle on the album with the stark beat and guitar of “You Don’t Like Me”—a song of simple declarations of relationship/human differences that will leave you amused, thinking and complete.   

They Might Be Giants have always had a sharp knack for infusing a lot of different styles of music and instruments to create their own original sound. They haven’t lost one bit of their smart balance of kitsch and ingenuity on this album. Instead, they’ve been keeping it real for all these years. By utilizing the studio space and collaborating once again with Patrick Dillett (David Byrne, Mary J. Blige, Tegan and Sara, Doveman), Join Us gives new and old school fans alike a truly TMBG nerderriffic amalgamation of jams.

Album Review by Emily Saex






Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: Join Us
Label: Idlewild/Rounder
Release: July 19, 2011

Free mp3 Download:

“Can’t Keep Johnny Down” – Click here to download