Review Summary: *Another* record from veteran nerd-rockers
It's a shame that They Might Be Giants
isn't at the forefront of everyone's American music lexicon these days. At the time they debuted through the end of last century, they had released half a dozen LPs, scored several high-profile college-radio singles ("Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", "Don't Let's Start", "Particle Man", etc.), and even wormed their way into every American household with the theme to Malcolm in the Middle. They are a cult-classic American band; never one to make the Hall of Fame-- but out of sheer longevity, at least make the case to never be forgotten.
But you'd be forgiven for not knowing that they released three LPs in 2018, or even that they've released 16 LPs since 2001. The rate at which they've manufactured music has only accelerated since their debut album in 1986. They are unabashedly prolific. They still tour the country incessantly. They are, by all-accounts, an "overclocked" band. One must consider then: where does quality intersect quantity? Supremely talented as they are, their blue-collar approach to "making music for the sake of it" probably doesn't serve them in that respect.
For anyone who hadn't checked-in in a bit, you'd be pleased to know the "Johns" sound as clear as they did 35(!) years ago. The harmonies are still impeccably arranged, and the instrumentation is diverse and masterfully played. TMBG is a finely-aged squad of veteran noisemakers and BOOK
is undeniably TMBG. Yet, while BOOK
is a labor of love, it is a labor all the same. Only a handful of hooks will really grab you by the ears ("Brontosaurus" and "Drown the Clown", for example), and you'll observe that many of the songs are interchangeable in structure and tone. And just like that: when you start to wonder if the good part is yet to come, the album is over before you've realized it.
At the very worst, you would probably think that BOOK
sounded a whole lot like their last twelve records (at least). There's not so much wrong with the album other than it's uninspiring. What exactly do TMBG still have to say, or to prove? Their foray in children's albums for a decade even seemed like an unspoken admittance that the songwriting was only good enough for an uncritical and captive audience. There may be something to that.
They Might Be Giants are approaching the twilight of their music career as a Monday-to-Friday clock-punching affair; numbers must be met to keep the lights on. Thusly, I found that BOOK
felt like clocking out of a shift and sitting down with a lite beer: Comfortable and familiar but quotidian and bland all the same.