CD Review of The Else by They Might Be Giants

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The Else
starstarstarstarno star Label: Idlewild/Zoe Records
Released: 2007
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It’s time to sit around and debate. It’s time to sit around and pick apart popular and cultish opinions. It’s time to sit around and discuss inane things in a serious fashion while we all sit around getting older and gain nothing from the debate. It’s time to sit around and finally say that sitting around and critiquing a new They Might Be Giants album is going to lead down a road that has its own recipe for pointless critique. If you’re a fan, you’re aware of this recipe as well. If you’re not, then here it is for you. Remember to follow it each and every time a new TMBG album comes out.

  1. Discuss how Johns Linnell and Flansburgh are still at it after “all these years.”
  2. Mention that their last album wasn’t as good as Lincoln.
  3. Mention how the new album is actually better than the last album put out, even though you did this the last time a new album of theirs was released. And the time before that as well.
  4. Insert a comment about how they lost some of their edge when they turned into a full-blown band “way back when” and ditched the drum machine.
  5. Try to get in one attack on the lyrics on the new album, and then cite “Particle Man” for the umpteenth time because you never got over it.
  6. On the other hand, mention something about how the Johns have “aged gracefully” and are at least “still doing their own thing” even though they’re not recording the sorts of songs you want them to.
  7. Conclude your review with some worn-out crap like “Maybe next time around they’ll get back to that genius they once wielded so effortlessly on Lincoln.
  8. Get the fuck over Lincoln already.

So there you have the patented TMBG review recipe. Everyone who’s even casually followed the band has cribbed from it. The rest of us know better. And so it’s nice to say that The Else is not a “return to form” or any of that crap. It’s just the next chapter in the story. The 13 new tracks are all kept under four minutes and feature the refreshing sound that we have come to expect from the Johns. You will surely enjoy such stomping pop rockers as “Take Out the Trash” mingling with the esoteric rock of “The Cap’m” and “The Mesopotamians.” The latter is one of those semi-history-laden jaunts that TMBG like to record every now and then.

Wait a minute. Now I’m just going the other route and writing the same old crap that fans who don’t follow the recipe write. Good god, it’s the optimistic TMBG review-writing recipe! Let’s stop that at once. Time to do this as neutrally and professionally as possible. Objectivity before subjectivity and all that. Ahem. And now for the official review.

The Else by They Might Be Giants. The new album on Idlewild/Zoe. Thirteen new tracks from your two favorite Johns. Featuring soon-to-be-favorites such as “I’m Impressed” and the adventurous “Bee of the Bird of the Moth.” Album due on July 10, 2007, and available now at your local iTunes. Purchase, listen, and enjoy.

There. That’s the justice I can do these guys. No more falling into the pessimistic or optimistic camp! Damn you for being so “quirky,” TMBG! You make it impossible for anyone to write up a new style of review for your work without resorting to recipes. In the future, all TMBG reviews will be written by telepaths sending in their pieces through telegraph lines. I have been defeated. Thank you for another wonderful album.

(Oh yeah, this was also produced by the Dust Brothers, who have done another exceptional job. No surprise there.)

~Jason Thompson