With the fantastic benefit of hindsight, They Might Be Giants turned out to be remarkably prescient. When they first crashed into the mainstream record buying public's consciousness with 'Birdhouse In Your Soul' people rightly looked at them as proper crackpots. Charming, sure, but with their wacky videos and musty cardigans they were right oddballs. Fast forward the best part of thirty years and geek chic has never been cooler. Just look down any high street at the number of beards, oversized National Health-esque glasses and t-shirts proclaiming the wearer to be a nerd, and you realise that John Flansburgh and John Linnell weren't weirdo outsiders at all but grand musical soothsayers of the near future.
Ever faithful to the stylistic niche that has allowed them to score Disney shows, create educational albums and ultimately a body of work that is darned near impossible to dislike, 'Glean' is every bit as true to this duo's back catalogue. Here you get the usual seemingly incompatible getting along famously, whether that be a Twenties big band jazz number ('Let Me Tell You About My Operation') next to a vibrant polka (‘Music Jail’) next to an emphatic Weezer-style rock opus ('Erase' or 'Answer') next to a squelchy synthpop track ('All The Lazy Boyfriends'). It clearly shouldn't work at all, but thankfully it does. The lyrics are, as ever, somewhere between indecipherable coded musings and heartfelt, loveable tenderness. Its essential kookiness is about as well-timed as it's ever going to be, all told.
Ultimately, the great thing about They Might be Giants is that their early shots at the target weren't one offs; here they still are, turning out gems and curiosities like the wise 'Madam, I Challenge You To A Duel, the theatrical 'Hate The Villanelle' or the title track which sounds like a dirty 78 of a forgotten Calypso song. This, then, is a duo unerringly faithful to their idiosyncratic sensibilities, a counter-cyclical group untrammelled by taste and expectation, doing their own unique thing as impeccably as they ever have. And for that we continue to love them dearly.
Erase / Good to Be Alive / Underwater Woman / Music Jail (Part 1 & 2) / Answer / I Can Help The Next in Line / Madam, I Challenge You To A Duel / End of the Rope / All The Lazy Boyfriends / Unpronounceable / Hate The Villanelle / I'm A Coward / Aaa / Let Me Tell You About My Operation / Glean
'Glean' was released on April 20th 2015 on CD, vinyl and download via LoJinx.
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