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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2011
What's the best way to judge a They Might Be Giants album? I've been a big fan of theirs basically my entire life, I've seen them live seven times, I own virtually every piece of music they've ever released. But to read most of the reviews of Join Us by some of the other hardcore fans, you'd think this album (like the last one and the one before that) was the second coming of Christ. To uncritically gush over a TMBG album does nobody any good, so I won't be doing that. Conversely, you've got hardcore fans that say TMBG sold out before the clock struck 1990 and nothing they've done since then has been any good at all. I'd like to think I don't take the band so seriously. So I'll just try and be honest with "Join Us". That seems like the best route to me.

I'll briefly preface the review by saying that I haven't liked much of TMBG's output in the last ten years. "Mink Car" was kind of a mess and "The Spine" was really bland. "The Else" was better, but very lopsided. The band's style had gravitated to straight rock in the 2000's, and in the process they lost that fun experimental essence that had made them so unique in the eighties and nineties. On the other hand, "No!" was excellent, and "Here Comes Science" was refreshing in its zaniness, so I had some hope that "Join Us" would be an improvement.

The short answer is that yes, it certainly is an improvement. Even a glance at the track listing gives the first indication that this album has more in common with "Lincoln" than "The Spine", as most of its 18 tracks are less than three minutes long. And like their earlier efforts, each song feels like a nice vignette, with a wide spectrum of styles and themes being visited throughout the course of the album. Flansburgh really steps up to the plate on "Join Us", delivering some of his most experimental works in fifteen years with tracks like "Cloisonne" and "Protagonist". Linnell backs him up with his trademarked pop masterpieces like "Canojaharie" and the wickedly dark "When Will You Die" (perplexingly made darker by the fact that it is set to the peppiest horns ever written). Where the Johns join forces lyrically is where some of the best magic happens, like the synth-fused "Never Knew Love" and the brilliant-yet-unfortunately-named "Spoiler Alert" (which features a simultaneously-sung dual narrative, if you can wrap your brain around that).

Not every song is great on "Join Us", but the missteps here (like the bland "Let Your Hair Hang Down") are merely mediocre. And overall, the album has a hyper-clean sound that lacks warmth, and can get to be grating upon repeated listen. But these are minor quibbles, and the most important thing about "Join Us" is that it feels refreshing and fun. It's good have They Might Be Giants back.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2011
I anxiously waited for this album since they first announced they were releasing another adult album, and I must say this was worth the wait. From "Can't Keep Johnny Down" to "You Don't Like Me" there is not a track on this album that I would skip over. My personal favorite at the moment is probably "When Will You Die" which is a rather humorous song in its own way. One of the other amazing songs is "Canajoharie" which is a straight forward rocker. "Spoiler Alert", "Never Knew Love", and "Cloisonné" are also fantastic songs. The weakest track is probably "Dog Walker" though it does have it does have a couple of nice lines.

Though it is an amazing album, I don't think this is the album that someone who has never listened to TMBG should start on. Instead they should start with "Flood" or possibly "Lincoln" and if they like those they might want to work their way up to this album.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2011
I'm likely one of the few people who both enjoys They Might be Giants and thinks the current state of the music industry is fantastic (if you know where to look, at least.)

I felt like there's no way that, after two years of regular releases of solid albums by various new artists (and a complete hook out of nowhere in Elvis Costello's National Ransom) that this album would be any good. I simply didn't need more fantastic music. I had plenty, not to mention that not being alive yet in the 1960s gives me plenty of backlog to go through.

This is the best album release I've had the pleasure to witness throughout my entire life. I feel like a They Might be Giants ex Machina has been performed on the industry, totally unnecessarily. I'm not a diehard fan of the band, but, like many musicians, I was greatly inspired by their earlier albums. John Henry and Flood will forever remain on my top 20 albums of all time, and with good reason; they're both inventive and goofy experimental rock that manages to stay catchy. That's incredibly difficult to do.

Then Join Us happens. I remained skeptical and attempted not to board the hype train, but this album lives up to John Henrey and absolutely shatters every other recent effort They Might be Giants has made.

After three listens, I still can't put the album down. I spefically took the long way to work today so I could listen to it in its entirety. Any they might be giants fan, or, hell, anyone with an open ear for experimental or alternative rock needs to pick this one up. And at its current price of four bucks, you'd be insane not to.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
...a new They Might Be Giants album! 18 new tracks!

Uh-oh. Judging by a few of the earlier reviews, not everyone's joining the Track 7 spirit of Celebration.

I'm just happy to be hearing a new grown-up album from TMBG. Is it their best ever? Maybe not. Does it do enough to earn 5-stars? Maybe not. But why quibble. Let's call it 4.5 and round it up.

How do I explain the differing reviewer reactions? Here's something I wrote in an earlier review (for The Fountain) that might apply here:

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Middle-aged musicians who still make records have come to expect a certain reaction from cranky middle-aged music critics. It goes something like this:

"(NAME OF BAND) was so much better back in (YEAR), when they released their influential album (TITLE GOES HERE). But that was (NUMBER) years ago, and listening to their new album, it's hard not to feel sorry that they sound SO DIFFERENT/EXACTLY THE SAME. I just wish they HAD/HADN'T changed and that they weren't SIMPLY GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS/TRYING SO HARD TO CREATE A NEW SOUND. It's simply impossible for me to listen to this album without thinking of their old songs which affected me differently because I was so young and IMPRESSIONABLE/HIGH/TRYING TO ACT SO MUCH COOLER THAN I ACTUALLY FELT."
---

Should you Join Us? Will you agree that They Can't Keep Two Alternative Rocking Johnnies Down? That's up to you. After all, as TMBG sing on Celebration: "The after-party has been moved to your house."
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2011
I only got the album today, but I love it. Usually it takes me a little while to really dig a new TMBG album, but this one I liked right off the bat. The songs range from "great" to "fantastic", and the album as a whole sounds wonderful. I don't think I'll have any "skip" songs on this album. I realize that I'm fangirling and not being terribly technical in my review, but I really do think it's a great album.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
As a longtime devoted (short of obsessed) fan of John2, I'm a tad melancholy that this might be the last we hear for a while from our Giants. Starting in 1990, when listening to Flood over and over and over and over helped me help my wife work through her deadly cancer (not to be maudlin; it's just true) (and yes, she's ok and rides her bike to work every day), to everything TMBG has done throughout, to the kid's concert I reluctantly and then joyously attended at the 930 Club in DC a few years ago, I count the Giants as among the sharp bright confusing sparks in my life.

Johns: I can only imagine how hard this can be, and I sense you're uncomfortable with accolades, but you're creating a legacy. Please know that -- and write on. Your latest, which I've now listened to 18 times, and forced on friends, was worth the wait. Is every song timeless and likely to be sung in 2082? Only if humanity's sense of irony is infinitely refined. Or we are living underground and find an iPod loaded from this time (when we'll wonder what the hell was going on).

Still, you're doing something nobody else is doing. I'm really fussy about music -- Sinatra still slays me, Morrissey still compels me (even though He Might Be A Classic Narcissist), Depeche Mode and other First Wave makes me laugh and move, and I think Stephin Merritt is a flawed genius.

But if you guys need any motivation -- or have the energy -- to keep going, please do. Nobody is doing what you're doing. The writing is the thing. It's hard. We violate our own sensibilities. But it trying produces what you've done with Join Us, it's worth the torture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2012
I picked up a signed copy of Join Us at a TMBG concert back in '11, and popped it in the CD player. I flipped. There is not a single song on this album that is boring, uncreative, or just "filler". It blows me away every time that I've listened to the whole album, and whenever You Don't Like Me comes on, I feel sad that it's gonna be over in two minutes. I firmly believe that this album isn't simply the Johns' best album to date, but altogether one of the best albums in all of the music business.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
One of the best bands in music. One of their best albums. I really really really really really like it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This album will not fail to impress any true TMBG fans. That being said, I'm certain it will also gain them new fans! Even though I'm quite familiar with their sound and how they make music, I still can't listen to a song on this album without hearing something new! I loved it from the beginning and it's still growing on me!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Welcome to a fourth decade with pioneers of quirk rock They Might Be Giants. Holy crap, has it been that long? Four years after their last proper album of music made with grown ups in mind The Two Johns are at it again, crafting unique rock songs about random stuff like Cephalophores, Cloisonné, duende (Google is great for stuff like this), time travel murder, a talking tiger, and a lady with laser beam eyes.

If "tener duende" is to have soul in music or to provoke some kind of response in the listener, then these guys still have plenty of that. The overall effect of the album is that of spending the night partying with a couple of mischievous, geek-smart, shape-shifting musicians who seem nice enough the next morning but you're not really sure if you all just had too much too drink or if they took you in the night like Alice through the Looking-Glass.

Smart, original, fun as usual, this is a rockin' TMBG album for both the casual and committed fan - buy it and buckle up for something of a musical adventure.
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