Who else but They Might Be Giants would consider releasing a grand total of 52 tracks across three albums over a twelve month period? On any measure, such a creative endeavour when you’ve been in the business for over thirty years is nigh on unprecedented, but the duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell have always been somehow unconventional in their approach.
It would be all too easy to use journalistic shorthand when looking at ‘Phone Power’ and its two predecessors, ‘Why?’ and ‘Glean’, and suggest that there was a decent single album that could be constructed from the songs issued across this trio of albums, but that’s anything but the case. Somehow, the Brooklyn duo have arrived at a creative nadir, and each track on ‘Phone Power’ is, its own unique way, the perfect embodiment of everything that makes They Might Be Giants so enduring.
Whether that be the wonky driving blues of ‘Say Nice Things About Detroit’, the slow-motion Devo-via-power-rock humour of ‘Sold My Mind To The Kremlin’ or the unlikely buzzing Weezer-y rock of their cover of Destiny Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, ‘Phone Power’ fuses oblique leftfield gestures with a huge sense of fun. It’s always been difficult to take They Might Be Giants’ screwball sensitivities completely seriously, but, as evidenced on cute songs like ‘I Love You For Psychological Reasons’, the tender sweep of ‘Daylight’ or the upbeat horn-filled ‘ECNALUMBA’, that’s exactly what makes them so important.
We can, if we choose to, surround ourselves with bad news and all manner of weighty issues, but TMBG offer light relief and a literate, intelligent, irreverent point of view. It’s impossible not to listen to these songs without smiling and feeling just a little bit more optimistic about the world. If you have any doubts at all, just check out the curt ‘Got Getting Up So Down’, with its funky and precise electro groove, and try not to grin inanely.

Sadly, this may be the last we hear from Lansburgh and Linnell for a while, as they’ve decided to go on indefinite hiatus. You can’t help but think that the music world will be a depressingly sober, serious place without them.


Mat Smith


THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - Phone Power (2016)

Apophenia / I Love You for Psychological Reasons / To a Forest / I Am Alone / Say Nice Things About Detroit / Trouble Awful Devil Evil / ECNALUMBA / Daylight / Sold My Mind to the Kremlin / It Said Something / Impossibly New / I’ll Be Haunting You / Got Getting Up So Down / What Did I Do to You / Shape Shifter / Bills, Bills, Bills / Black Ops Alt / I Wasn’t Listening

‘Phone Power’ is available now on CD and as a Digital Download.

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