Posts Tagged ‘Can’t Keep Johnny Down’

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.