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Album review: They Might Be Giants - Join Us



Perhaps I should start with a full disclosure. They Might be Giants have been my favorite band since I was twelve years old. It can be hard to review a new album from your favorite band. It's entirely possible that this album is completely awful, but I'm boosting the rating because I love the band so much. It's also possible that this album is completely amazing, but I'm downgrading the rating because I hold the band to such a high standard.

On one side of this, there is a certain amount of predictability to the record. If you know what They Might Be Giants sound like, you know what Join Us will sound like. The same sort of up-and-down nasal vocals, a few literary references ("The Lady and the Tiger"), name dropping (yes, the guys are still named "John"), and there's even a call back to the band's first album with a "Chess Piece" reference. It's not breaking new ground for music, or even for the band.

At the same time, it's hard not to enjoy these things that the band have done so formulaic for the past few albums. It feels like the band have gotten into a bit of a comfortable rut every since 1996's Factory Showroom. Except They Might Be Giants have been known to craft a few creative surprises in that time (1999's internet-only Long Tall Weekend and the 2009 kids album Here Comes Science come instantly to mind), so you know these guys still got it.

Sometimes it just takes a little time to warm up to a new They Might Be Giants album, and fully accept it as part of their amazing catalog. A few songs that felt like duds at the time ("Mr. Xcitement" off of Mink Car, for instance), but in hindsight they turn out to be amazing. Join Us has some hopes for a few memorable tracks, but it will certainly never rival albums like Flood or Apollo 18.


Ash said...

I think you're downgrading it a bit. I'm also a huge fan and yes they sound like They Might Be Giants but I think this is up there with their best early work. Probably their best with a full band and probably most like Apollo 18

Jason Glastetter said...

I think a lot of it is the amount of growth from the band. There's a lot of change from The Pink Album through Factory Showroom; there's some between Factory Showroom and now, but just not nearly as much. Again, I just may be overly critical because of how much I love 'em.