Posts Tagged ‘spiraling shape’

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!!!