Archive for Music Reviews

Joefestapaloozachella 2014



Click here to enjoy the show: Joefestapaloozachella 2014



Very soon thousands of people will trek deep into the desert to regret their poor decision making skills under the hot sun as they trade their life savings for a bottle of water or their first born son for a suck on someone’s CamelBak. I am not a fan of any music festival in general. There are usually only three or four bands I want to see, and usually two of them are playing at the same time. Now host it in the middle of no where and make me stand in the sun all day, and you can imagine how I feel about Coachella. Look, if you’re ok with paying $400 to for a chance to see 4 of your favorite bands play for 30 minutes each, you might as well pay $50 to see each of them play their own show in LA.


This isn’t a blog about how godawful festivals are, though. This is about my great idea to break you free from the clutches of despair by allowing you to enjoy great live music from home. I have found videos of some of my all-time favorite live performances and made a playlist on Youtube for you to enjoy in the safety and luxury of your own home.


I don’t expect anyone to actually sit down and listen to all 3 or 4 hours of this, but you might enjoy listening while you cook or go to work, or drive into the middle of no where to fight over the last centimeter of shade…


So, what if you had a time machine and you could go back and pull some of your favorite artists from their most spot-on performances and add them all to one bill? Sure, there are other great tours that can certainly be added here, but we need to save something for next year, right?


Here’s the line up.


Stephen Malkmus: Acoustic KCRW Session


Joefestapaloozachella opens with a great acoustic performance by Stephen Malkmus in which he performs some of his greatest tracks from Real Emotional Trash. This acoustic session is one of my go-to background noise options, and when I want to see someone really cut loose on the guitar there really isn’t anything better than this. There is a lot to enjoy here.


Eels with Strings: Live at Town Hall


Next up is the Eels. I have seen the Eels about 5 times live now, and you never really know what kind of show you’re going to get. Sometimes they turn it up to 11 and rock out all of their songs, even a lot of their more melodramatic tunes. Other times you are treated to a mellow and touching take on some of the greatest songs in the Eels catalog. The Eels with Strings tour was the best incarnation of the latter, offering a substance to some of the Eels most familiar songs that gives the music a new and fresh texture. The DVD is fantastic, but I could only find a few tracks online to treat you to. I hope you enjoy.


Andy Kaufman

I wanted to add some comedy into the mix. You know, someone to come on stage and entertain you while you stand around waiting for the next band? Andy Kaufman was my no-brainer choice. The guy is a comic genius. I’m sure most of the audience would be high by this point, which would only make his type of “I’m here to screw with you” humor more entertaining.


Thin Lizzy: Live and Dangerous


There are too many people out there don’t know much about Thin Lizzy beyond their hit The Boys are Back In Town. The band is more than just one great song. They walk the line between hard classic rock and metal and they make it sound better than most bands could back then. Their energy on stage and the presence of Phil Lynott makes the Live and Dangerous Tour one of the most entertaining recorded live performances I’ve ever seen. You know you’re in for a treat when a band opens with their most popular song. Usually, by the time a show like this is over you have a list of new favorite songs you can’t wait to check out when you get home. They kill it from start to finish.


David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars


It was hard to push play on this next performance- Thin Lizzy is so too damn good to turn off. But when the next performance up is from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it makes it easier. From hard, fast, and amazing rock, we tread onward into the spectacle that was Ziggy Stardust. The 70’s were weird.


I have a lot of respect for Bowie because he could have milked that Ziggy Stardust cow for ages, but he decided he was going to leave his uber successful alter-ego in the dust and pursue a conventional solo career. It was a gutsy move that paid off, but looking at footage from the movie made of one of his Stardust shows, you really get to see what he left behind- a giant fan base and one of the most bizarre and enjoyable live shows ever dreamed up.


The Talking Heads “Stop Making Sense”


Amazing music- check.

Suit that’s way too big- check.

Academy Award winning director- check.

An elephant’s weight in cocaine- probably.


As great and timeless as these performances all are, it’s a slam dunk who is headlining this thing- The Talking Heads from their now famous Stop Making Sense video. There isn’t much I can say that you shouldn’t know already and that you couldn’t learn from just watching the video. If you haven’t seen it before, you should watch it right now, and if you have seen it before then you know that you should probably watch it again as soon as possible. If you love the Taking Heads, Stop Making Sense is the best way to revisit the band in all their glory through what is possibly the most momentous performance ever caught on tape by any band. If you don’t love the Talking Heads, you haven’t seen Stop Making Sense yet, so shut your mouth and experience it.







5 Underrated A+ Albums

Sixteen Stone by Bush

While I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest Bush fan, this album really deserves more credit than it’s given. Maybe it didn’t redefine a genre or put the world on its head, but it accomplished a lot. I feel like whenever a song from this album comes on the radio I have to defend it, and that doesn’t seem right to me, and it’s actually the reason I thought about writing this article.

Bush will forever be known as the band that showed up to the party late. Kurt Cobain was already dead, Pearl Jam was trying to stay relevant, and Soundgarden was either broken up or on their way there, and then in comes Bush. And they weren’t bad. Most new grunge bands would have been mocked and shunned, but Bush was actually so good that the genre most people were tired of became interesting again. “Machinehead” and “Glycerine” were GIANT hits and are accepted as such today.

The band kind of disappeared after this album. They released that song “Mouth” and kept trying to reclaim their former glory while changing their sound, but it wasn’t happening. Today, people kind of seem to think they’re a joke, but let me run some info by you. The album contains 6 songs that charted higher than number 4 on the Billboard music charts. The album itself peaked at #4, and has sold over six million copies. This was all AFTER grunge was popular. This is like someone coming out and releasing an amazing Rock/Rap album right now. Making old hat into new hat is pretty impressive, so my hat is off to them.


Ixnay on the Hombre by The Offspring

Before they went off and got kinda poppy and funny, The Offspring were kinda punk. Their first major album, Smash, was pretty high octane and didn’t pull any punches. It contained all the hits you likely remember, “Self Esteem”, Bad Habit”, and “Come Out and Play”. When their second major album came out, a lot of people were excited to hear where they would take their sound.

The album was still kinda punk, complete with a disclaimer at the album’s start, voiced by Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys. The album is a just as loud and charged as Smash and really kept their tempo up and their fire burning. The singles from the album, “Gone Away”, “I Choose”, and “All I Want” were pretty great and didn’t get as much attention as they deserve, especially “Gone Away”.

Today, when people look back on their career, people remember Smash, and then they remember “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” and “Why Don’t You Get a Job”, leaving Ixnay on the Hombre out of the picture. Their new stuff is cool, but it has more meaning when looking at it in context of a band with punk roots who took their message into the mainstream. Ixnay on the Hombre is a great album that many fans of outspoken, raw music should look into.


Fashion Nugget by Cake

In 1996, Cake got some recognition based on the success of the single “The Distance”, but their fame was sporadic at best from there. They have experienced spikes in popularity in their career after Fashion Nugget with hits like “Never There”, and “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”, but most people did themselves a disservice by letting this gem pass them by.

The album opens with “Frank Sinatra”:

and delivers track after track of fun, witty, catchy, well written, and downright enjoyable songs. There isn’t a track on this album from the somber “Sad Songs and Waltzes” to the cover of the 1947 song “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” that under-delivers; the album really shows the band’s range and writing styles in a powerful way.

Any Cake CD deserves your attention, but the most underrated of the group’s catalog is Fashion Nugget. While other albums show an evolution of their trademark sound, this album is as close to perfect as many might hope for. In a time when the music world should be begging for a fresh, fun, and outspoken group like Cake, the mainstream seem to keep letting them slip by. It’s nearly criminal.


Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet

I know you might think I’m crazy for putting this cult classic in here, but my point is that this album deserved much more than cult classic status. I bought this album without being too sure what to expect, but after the first few songs it’s hard not to be impressed. How so many people had never heard of Matthew Sweet before Guitar Hero featured “Girlfriend” is beyond me. The man has immense talent.

The guitar work of Matthew Sweet is something very special, and his songwriting ability is tremendous. The first 6 songs on this CD is one of the best beginning to any I’ve ever heard. From “Divine Intervention” to “Evangeline”, the album starts off with a showcase of talent and passion for not only the music he’s writing, but for the topics he addresses within each song.

While the album has been called one of the best power-pop records of the 90’s, today it is often overlooked and deserves a lot more attention than it gets. The videos for the songs “Girlfriend” and “I’ve Been Waiting” are made from a blend of Japanese animation and music, and was pretty cutting edge for the time.

From the harmonizing to the crazy guitar solos, Girlfriend offers up a lot more than many people might imagine. I listened to this album many times, and every time I listen to it I feel like I hear something new. It’s a beautiful album.


High Voltage

I’ve said for a long time, if someone asked me to show them what rock music was all about, I’d give them an AC/DC album. But let me clairify: I’d give them an album before Bon Scott died. After Bon Scott died, things changed, but ask any casual listener today and they might not even know about it. Brian Johnson came in after the tragic death of Bon Scott and did a great job with Back in Black and subsequent records as well. Bittersweet as it may be, Back in Black was so big that it’s easy to forget just how amazing the band was before the change.

The older albums had something the new stuff just doesn’t. Bon Scott added lyrics to the music that fit. He was a bad ass and he let everyone know it. Songs like “Live Wire”, “The Jack”, and “Rocker” cannot be recreated by any musician with the same amount of truth. The newer stuff feels too much like Brian Johnson is just trying pretend he’s Bon Scott. It makes sense to try, but none of his lyrics really come close to the badassery that was Bon Scott.

And of these older records, I feel the most underrated is High Voltage. For a debut album, it is simply amazing. The raw power of the band, and the in-your-face lyrics push this album to the front of the line when looking at some of the best rock albums of all time. From the very start with the song “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)” to the very last song “High Voltage”, AC/DC paints an accurate picture for the world of just what kind of power they’re unleashing.

I know the US version of this album went platinum, but today it’s one of the last albums a casual listener or new fan might pick up. Songs like “The Jack” have been retooled by and rewritten by Brian Johnson, and some people might even hear the (better) original versions after they’ve heard the new stuff. It’s a shame.

The most popular song on this album is “T.N.T.” but every one of these rockers could have been hit singles. In my opinion “Live Wire” is one of the best songs the band has ever written. Between the screaming classic guitar riffs and the bad ass lyrics that proclaim the power of AC/DC, it’s impossible to deny that this album should be the starting point for any new fan and should go down in history as, quite possibly, if not THE, then one of the very best quintessential rock albums ever made.



Join Us by They Might Be Giants

When first listening to Join Us, it was clear to me that this album is a step backward for They Might Be Giants. Their last album, The Else, wasn’t bad but it wasn’t their best, so this step backward did not have to be a bad thing. It could just be that they are rediscovering their roots. But did they do that, or did they just try to produce an album that was an imitation of their older stuff?

I was torn on this question. Tracks like “Old Pine Box”, and “Can’t Keep Johnny Down”, are great, catchy songs. Songs like “The Lady and the Tiger” and “Canajoharie” contain wonderfully written lyrics that just beg to be dissected. Then there are songs like “Dog Walker” and” Spoiler Alert” that just fall flat.

(The song in this video starts at 3:40)

Most the album kind of falls flat, really. While I feel the content and spirit of the album is something from the days of Flood or Lincoln, the album’s power and energy falters. It’s kind of bizarre that I’m taking this stance because the last album they released, The Else, had a sound that seems overdriven and pushed into territory that didn’t flatter their song writing style. On Join Us, it’s almost the opposite. I feel like they’re holding back a bit.

This might be because of their time spent writing children’s music, but song styles that rocked in the past that included stuff like “I Palindrome I”, “Damn Good Times”, and “Twisting” are just not present. Every TMBG album has some songs that really peak the momentum. Listening to Join Us brings you close to that point, but only brings you close enough to realize that it’s missing. I feel like a lot of songs could have been turned up a notch, and I have a feeling they are played that way live, but on the albums, they fall flat.

Join Us contains some really awesome songs, and some really bizarre songs. If anything, this album does hold on to those conventions. I enjoyed listening to it more the second time because I focused more on what they were doing and not what I wanted to hear. The first half of the album seems to be more straight forward, catchy songs. The second half is a bit more creative and reminds me a lot of their first two albums. Songs like “2082” and “Protagonist” are just as perplexing as “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” and “32 Footsteps”. I didn’t get “Protagonist” at all until I read the lyrics a long with it. There are two sets of vocals in this song, basically reading a script, one being the lines and the other being the stage direction. Very cool.

So, while this album does fall flat, and seems kind of like a “lite” TMBG album, it is still fun to listen to and still something that I’m sure will make its way into my CD player again and again. For the fans, check it out. For those of you who are looking to try out the band, stick with Flood, Mink Car, Lincoln, or Apollo 18.

The Spine by They Might Be Giants

The Spine is one of my favorite albums by They Might Be Giants. Although No! was a wonderful album, The Spine was a welcome change and reassurance of the band’s abilities. It contains quite a few rockers and some really evolved and adult sounds.

An interesting track on the album is “Thunderbird” because of its connection to a song from Long Tall Weekend, “On Earth My Nina.” I’ll talk about that connection a little more in another article, but this “Thunderbird” is a really fun track that was written by the band years before the release of The Spine.

Some other high velocity tracks include “It’s Kicking In” and “Damn Good Times.” These two songs are two of my favorite from the band’s entire catalog, and are two of the most amazing songs to see the band perform live because of the sheer energy involved. These songs really helped reassure me as a fan that TMBG was not becoming strictly a children’s band. They would continue to write fantastic music geared toward its adult fans as well.

Really, the band says a lot with The Spine. TMBG shows us that they can still write adult music, that they can still be as catchy and witty as always, while still remaining smart and progressive. Songs like “Au Contraire” and “Excremental Film” are fun listens with strong and fascinating lyrics, while “Prevenge” and “I Can’t Hide From My Mind” carry the tradition of smart and witty subject matter wrapped in carefully written and crafted music.

I really suggest this album for a first CD. It’s just weird enough to get you ready for early stuff by the band, but it also features a more contemporary style that might make it more accessible for new fans. You can find The Spine on used for about $3. I suggest you do.

No! by They Might Be Giants

When I first heard that TMBG was going to be releasing a children’s album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The second or third time I saw them live was right before No! was released, and they announced that they would be performing some of the songs off the album. I was a little pissed about it, thinking I was about to see the TMBG version of the Wiggles. I got something totally different.

The album is such a mix of children’s themes and the signature style of TMBG that it is easy for the average fan of the band to enjoy and for their kids to enjoy as well. Songs like “No!” and “Bed, Bed, Bed” are totally geared toward children lyrically, but the music is still catchy and well written.

Listening to No! pretty much still feels like listening to a standard TMBG album. The music is interesting and fun, and the lyrics are smart and witty. There are only a couple of songs that seem a little too childish to look beyond and accept as a song for adults AND children. The songs “Violin” and “In the Middle, In the Middle, In the Middle” are not subtle in their intentions to simply be silly or to teach children to cross the street at the crosswalk. This would be fine if the music was more accessable to a larger audience.

A couple of songs, “I Am Not Your Broom” and “The Edison Museum” were actually written a long time before the album was released, and “The Edison Museum” was actually released on Long Tall Weekend years before. Also, the song “Robot Parade” was written earlier in the band’s career as well, only it had more adult lyrics:

Also, No! features the song “Where Do They Make Balloons?” which is sung by Danny Weinkauf. It is simply amazing. I love the fun lyrics and the song is the best example of fine music that adults can enjoy with lyrics that play with a child’s imagination:

Unlike later children’s albums that the band would create, this album truly can be enjoyed by the whole family. You can get No! on for $2! Do it!

Little Known A+ Albums #3: Mink Car by They Might Be Giants

The CD cover colds out into a poster that looks like directions on putting together a model of a guy and a car.

(You are reading a music review which was reposted for TMBG Month [June 2011])

Anyone who knows as much about me as they say they do wouldn’t expect to see a list of A+ albums without a They Might Be Giants appearance.  While they are my favorite band, I’m trying to be fair here, and I’m putting them at #3.  I’ll admit, the next two albums are better than this one, although I still prefer their catalog as a whole to nearly any other band’s.


Anyway, Mink Car came out when I was in high school and I didn’t like it much at the time.  After listening to it again and again, I’ve come to accept it as one of their best.  They Might Be Giants have been around for nearly 25 years now, so they have gone through a lot of different sounds.  You can tell what songs are from the 80’s for example, and which are from the 90’s, but they always have a certain quality that separates them from other bands. This album was released in 2001 and was their first of the new millennium.  It was released just after their single “Boss of Me” (the theme song from “Malcolm in the Middle” which won the band their first Grammy), although the song does not appear on the album.
The album is different from their other albums in that it is the first to really cover many different genres of music on its own.  If you look back over their previous albums, each had its own sound and identity.  Mink Car is an eclectic assortment of dance music, power pop, and TMBG’s trademark bizarre.
One of the biggest reasons to respect this album is because it was recorded mostly on the road at different studios and with different producers.  Still, it stands out as one of their greatest efforts.
The album starts out with “Bangs” which is one of my favorite songs by the band.  It’s about a guy who is with a girl because he loves her bangs.  And I quote, “And although I liked you anyway, check out your haircut./A proscenium to stage a face that needs no make-up.”  I tried to find the song on youtube, but this is the best I could do…

He does a pretty good job though.  Maybe he can play my wedding.  (Steph, you should probably get some bangs so this will make sense.)  More from him later.

Anyway, you might know one or two of the songs from various appearances they made in TV spots or on other stuff.  Like this ad for Chrysler.
Ok, I couldn’t find it.  The song was called “Yeh, Yeh” but every time I searched it I kept getting videos for that band the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s.  It’s a good song, though.  And it’s a cover…anyway, let me see what songs I can find…
Ah ha!  Here’s a good one.  They used to play Conan a lot.  This song is called “Man, It’s So Loud in Here.”  How great is this song?  A dance song about not being able to talk in a club because it’s too loud.  Genius.  The chorus is great.  “Baby, check this out, I’ve got something to say./Man, it’s so loud in here./When they stop the drum machine and I can think again/I’ll remember what it was.”
The song “Drink!” is great.  It’s a waltzy kind of drinking song.  Very fun live because they get the whole crowd involved.  On the album it ushers in the final seven tracks and a kind of lul in the tempo of the album.  This is the best video I could find of the song.  Enjoy:
Alright, you know what?  Here are all the best videos I can find for the songs off the album.

A+.  You can find the album for $7.50 on, but I suggest buying it from their e-store at  Stay tuned for more awesome albums you think you don’t need to know about or do not know about and you should know about.  Thanks.


Interesting Fact: This album was released on September 11th, 2001.  Just like the KGB’s album reviewed on this list. (I didn’t do that on purpose)

Long Tall Weekend

Long Tall Weekend

(You are reading a review written in the month of June, 2011, which was dedicated to the band They Might Be Giants and the task of reviewing many of the bands most popular material.)

They Might Be Giants have the distinction of being the first band to release a full studio album online. This came after the fallout between the band and Elektra and may have been an attempt to move into a DIY situation for the band. Released on Emusic, the album Long Tall Weekend lead to TMBG becoming the most downloaded band ever on the internet. This continues today through their website,, where you can download full length albums and concerts from all over the world.


The album as a whole is decent. Songs like Operators are Standing By and Luliby to Nightmares are great and well written, but the album as a whole feels like something that was either thrown together from moments throughout their career. Really, it doesn’t feel like a TMBG album as much as a collection like Miscellaneous T. In fact, a lot of these songs were rejected from the Factory Showroom album.

Couple that with the fact that 8 of the 15 songs were released either later or before the album, either as the exact same recording or rerecorded versions of the same song, and you might understand why going back and listening to Long Tall Weekend feels like less than what it should. “(She Think’s) She’s Edith Head” and “Older” later appear on Mink Car in rerecorded versions (I prefer the later version), and “Token Back To Brooklyn” appeared on Factory Showroom as a hidden track. Its release here may be because the song was unacceptable on some CD players. Also, the exact same recording of “Edison Museum” was later released on their children’s album No!.  

Even the song, “Maybe I Know” is a cover that they used to perform as early as their Self Titled and Lincoln era.

The other songs, such as “Rat Patrol” and “Certain People I Could Name” would be released on a compilation titled They Got Lost, named after another song taken from Long Tall Weekend. They Got Lost is a bit easier to find, at least on CD. You can still get Long Tall Weekend off of Emusic for about $5 (50 cents a song), but finding the few hard copies that were sold (mostly at shows in 1999) is a bit more difficult.

The album met pretty strong reviews and on Emusic where it was mostly downloaded it received 4 out of 5 stars. This was released right around the time I became a fan and I had no idea what was going on. These songs are mostly considered rarities to me.  Also, the album seems to have little continuity which is something that could be expected following the solid and polished Factory Showroom album.


On this album is “On Earth My Nina,” which is a song (“Thunderbird”) sung backward by John Linnell. I will be covering this in its own article because it’s a pretty awesome idea with pretty amazing results.

All in all, this is one of the most obscure albums the band has released due to it containing song that were mostly either rereleased later or released prior to the album. I don’t know how fondly the band looks at this album, but to me it is hardly a major release by the band. Still, it deserves some credit, as it contains some very impressive music.

You cannot find Long Tall Weekend used or new on You can find it at for about $5. If I were you, I’d just buy They Got Lost used on for $5, then buy the following tracks for 50 cents off of emusic:

  1. “Drinkin'”
  2. “Maybe I Know”
  3. Operators are Standing By”
  4. “Dark And Metric”
  5. “Counterfeit Faker”
  6. “They Got Lost”
  7. “On Earth My Nina” 

Severe Tire Damage

(Since I couldn’t find ANY tracks, other than Dr. Worm, from this album on youtube, the live videos featured here are the closest things I could find to the album)

When I bought Severe Tire Damage, I didn’t know I was buying a live CD. It was the second CD I bought by the band, and I noticed it contained a lot of hits, so I went for it. The first track, “Dr. Worm” is a studio track:

The next track, “Sever Tire Damage Theme” is also a studio track. But the rest of the album is live, taken from a number of different shows following the release of their album Factory Showroom. One of the tracks was actually recorded in a hotel room. The song is called “Meet James Ensor” and was originally on the album John Henry. This live version features an acapella solo, which is a lot of fun to listen to.

There are two tracks on this album that were unreleased prior to this album. The song “First Kiss” was slowed down greatly and became “Another First Kiss.” Also, the song “They Got Lost” would be released on their next album, Long Tall Weekend, it would also be slowed down and retooled a bit. I honestly like the live versions better.

They Might Be Giants are an amazing live band and I’m really happy I picked this up by accident when I did. It let me hear that this oddball band actually puts on a great show. After seeing the band live about 10 times now, I can say that Severe Tire Damage really does showcase the energy and entertainment of a TMBG show. Though it came out before a bunch of my favorite songs were written, and though it omits a lot of great hits from They Might Be Giants and Lincoln, it does give us some fantastic versions of “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul” as well as “Till My Head Falls Off” (my favorite track on the album):

The album also features for the first time on a full CD the song “Why Does the Sunshine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas).” The song, which was originally a PSA, is a cover that was released as an EP. The single contains the studio version, which is much different. The live version is fantastic, but the song would be released on their children’s album Here Comes Science! In 2009.

The last seven tracks were all written as a kind of homage to the Planet of the Apes movies. They’re pretty interesting, and kind of weird, especially since they’re not listed on the album at all. All the songs were apparently improvised, which is pretty impressive. Here’s one:

You can find Sever Tire Damage on used for $1.25.

Factory Showroom

Factory Showroom

When I was counting down my list of “10 A+ Albums You Don’t Know About” I almost went with Factory Showroom instead of Mink Car. Factory Showroom was the last released by TMBG under the Elektra label. The band had been facing a lot of issues with the label leading up to the release of of the album and after a demo tape of album (along with a bunch of tracks which were rejected from the Showroom sessions) was accidentally released by Elektra weeks before the album appeared in stores, and after the band felt that the label didn’t do a very good job of marketing their album to the public, the two split.

John Flansburgh is on the record saying that this is his favorite effort by the band. It contains 14 tracks and is only about 45 minutes in length, making it the shortest of their albums for years to come. It contains a song, “Token Back to Brooklyn”, which can only be accessed by rewinding the first track on the CD. It shows up on your CD player as negative time as you rewind. This doesn’t work on some CD players, and if it hadn’t been for the online community of TMBG fans, I would have never heard it.

The music on this album feels like the band was trying go back to its more eclectic sound. Apollo 18 and John Henry were much more guitar driven and didn’t display a wide array of inspiration from different genres as other albums had. Previous albums had songs which reminded the listener of Caribbean sounds, southern twang, blues, and a variety of other genres. This took a backseat for a while as the band grew, but Factory Showroom brings back that aspect of their songwriting.  “Your Own Worst Enemy” really sounds like something I would expect to hear on Lincoln.  It reminds me a lot like old songs such as “Hide Away Folk Family” and “When it Rains it Snows”:

That is to say they didn’t abandon the rockers. Flansburgh really took advantage of having a second guitarist on staff for the first time with the song “XTC vs Adam Ant”:

Factory Showroom is a showcase of a bunch of very well written songs. When looking at album out of context, it could be the bands best work. They had only written one album before this with a full band, and for them to achieve such well written and complex songs as “Spiraling Shape” and “Pet Name” is a fantastic accomplishment.

An interesting track is “I Can Hear You” which was recorded at the Edison Laboratory on a wax cylinder and performed entirely acoustic. The lyrics are pretty funny when you consider the way they recorded the song, since they all have to do with speakers and phones, and people not being able to understand messages over them. Check it out:

This was the only wax-cylinder recorded track ever released on a major studio album. Here’s a quote taken from the band which I took from

This track was recorded at the Edison Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey on an Edison wax cylinder recorder. We performed this and other songs in front of a small audience, singing and playing acoustic instruments as loud as we could into a pair of enormous metal cones, the larger of which was perhaps twelve feet long, which fed the sound into a hundred year old non-electrical recording device created by Thomas Edison in the 1890s. The wax cylinder recorder carves a groove into a rotating tube of softened wax with a needle that is vibrating from the sound pressure collected at the small end of the cone. That is the best we can explain it. It looked very cool.

The album didn’t do well on the charts and it didn’t spawn any music videos or chart topping singles, but it is a fantastic collection of songs. I feel that by limiting the tracks on the album, and picking and choosing what songs deserved to be on the album, we’re treated to something new on a TMBG album. It has a certain flow and continuity that I really appreciate.  Although it leave you wanting more, most great albums do.

You can get Factory Showroom online for fifty cents! Do it!!!


John Henry

John Henry

When I got to meet the John’s at a book signing in 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember, I brought John Henry for them to sign. John Linnell told me it had been a long time since he signed it, and then they took a picture with me. The picture came out like it was taken at the center of the Earth. If you’re not sure what that looks like, it’s dark and hot.


This album, for a very long time, was my favorite by TMBG. It is also an album shrouded in controversy as this is the first album which featured a full band accompanying the John’s. When the album was released, it was a large issue with some fans, who would boycott and protest the band in other ways. By the time I got my hands on it, the controversy had dwindled away, and the fact this album wasn’t entirely credited to the John’s was a footnote to the music they created.


The fact is, by the time John Henry came about, TMBG had gone through many musical transformations. While these were small, they can definitely be heard. Just listen to the songs I posted in my review of their self-titled album and listen to some of the tracks from Apollo 18. It’s obvious that the band changed to suit their expectations, to respond to fan reactions to their music, and to suit their own ability as musicians. And looking at things today, I think John Henry is similar to Apollo 18 in many ways, and in other ways only builds on what the band has established in the past. I will say that their live performances greatly changed as you can see by the video below (a little after 2 minutes in):


The album charted higher than any other before or since by the band (#61) and the album boasts 20 songs, making it the longest album the band has ever produced. The music on John Henry continues to be a bit louder than what we saw on Flood and prior. The songs at times take it to a new level. Songs like “Stomp Box” sound nothing like anything we have heard from TMBG prior:


Still, “Snail Shell” shows us that the band did not lose their touch with bizarre and interesting lyrics. The song is about a snail thanking someone for putting it back in its shell, for example:


There was more controversy with the album due to a song the band called “NyQuil Driver” and ended up having to call “AKA Driver” and omitting the lyrics from the liner notes. This song is featured in the earlier video in this article.

Aside from this, the album contains songs that celebrate James Ensor, the painter from the 1800’s, and also borrows lines from the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. Also, the album explores topics of death, and love, and obsession in tracks like “Sleeping in the Flowers” and “The End of the Tour” and also has a few songs that seem to be influenced by the ideas of brainwashing and subliminal messages. This is seen in songs like the obvious “Subliminal” and like “Dirt Bike” (start this vid around 1:30 if you want to see the music happen):


One of my favorite songs on this album is “Destination Moon” and I’m not sure why. I guess because it’s awesome? Yes. I guess that is it:

They Might Be Giant’s did a great job with John Henry. The sound of the band was fresh for at the time and it really was a leap in a direction that I could hear in Apollo 18 and Flood. You can get John Henry for only 31 cents, used on I would recommend you do it. This is a great album to introduce you to the music of TMBG.

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