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The Spine

4.2 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A new record, their most rocking album ever! With their unique blend of catchy melodies and inscrutable lyrics, They Might Be Giants have lived a twenty-year frenzy of creative output, selling over three million albums and winning a Grammy in the process.

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If ever they gave out Grammys for mule-minded consistency, then Sting would have a lot more awards in his villa. But coming in a close second would be They Might Be Giants. Keyboard player John Linnell and guitarist John Flansburgh have a sense of focus that would put even the Ramones to shame. From the Brooklyn duo's first demo tape in 1985 up to its frenzied latest, The Spine, the same ingredients remain at the fore: effortlessly catchy choruses, songs that smear the line between novelty and being novel (new ones include ""Memo to Human Resources" and "Museum of Idiots"), and musical backing that sounds like a cross between a polka party and someone throwing silverware down the stairs. It's a quirky approach that's not going to easily win over any new converts but the will certainly drive the dedicated legion of old ones to smile with familiar-yet-fresh material like "Experimental Film" and "Au Contraire." --Aidin Vaziri
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 13, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Zoe Records
  • ASIN: B0002ANQTK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,571 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By JEFF F. HAINES on August 2, 2004
Format: Audio CD
There used to be two types of reviews for a They Might Be Giants album. One would aim for newcomers, curious about the band. The other would speak to established fans who long-knew they were going to buy the album and were seeking validation, while sitting at their computers in their TMBG caps and shirts, while sipping coffee from their Tony Millionaire mugs, while either nodding or poising their cursors over the "Not Helpful" vote button. Now there's a disturbing third type, those who have lost the faith and want to know if it's worth the cash, giving the Giants a second or third chance.

THE SPINE is They Might Be Giants's tenth album. I've been with the band since a little before JOHN HENRY hit the sales racks. Gotta admit: I'm a fan-addict. With shaky hands I would unwrap each new release, drop it in the player, and start grinning even before the first track began. Halfway through the album I'd be nodding, half-smiling, and wondering what in the world was going on here. By the last track, I'd still be nodding, vaguely pleased. The CD would go back into its protective case, and I'd listen to an old favorite: Apollo 18, Flood, Lincoln. Because THOSE were the Giants I fell in love with.

They Might Be Giants is a progressive band--gods of music, in my opinion. They are always producing, always writing, always playing. They love what they do and it shows. They're always pushing the limits, trying new sounds, bending old sounds, crossing genres, and perfecting their art. Call me "fan-addict-al," but TMBG become the music for me. Of course, with such proliferation, they're bound to generate a different sound than the last album. Every album is a hearty step up for these guys.

THE SPINE is no different.
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Format: Audio CD
They Might Be Giants' last rock album, 2001's Mink Car, was a decent but rather disjointed collection of tunes. The Spine, billed as the Brooklyn-based alternative-pop duo's 10th studio album, is their most cohesive to date, and among their best (though not quite as endearing as their self-titled 1986 debut, nor as consistently strong as their 1988 follow-up Lincoln, still my 2 favorite TMBG albums). With 16 songs crammed into 36 minutes, there's scarcely a wasted word or note -- though it kinda makes you *wish* there were more! The disc's overall sound is a fresh, invigorating mix of retro New Wave, power-pop, and psychedelic rock with traces of funk, electronica, jazz, cabaret, and vaudeville. For the most part, the usual playful absurdism and dark humor of TMBG's lyrics are reconciled with a newfound middle-aged gravity; after all, sweet-voiced singer-guitarist John Flansburgh turned 44 and twangy-voiced singer-keyboardist John Linnell turned 45 earlier this year.

A few of these tracks can actually stand among the Johns' very best: Linnell's rollicking ode to alcoholism, "Thunderbird" (a staple in the band's live shows since the late 1990's, finally making its way to CD); his unusually emotional ballad "Museum of Idiots"; Flansy's vulnerable, melancholy closing track, "I Can't Hide From My Mind" (the first verse and chorus of which he originally performed in the 2003 rockumentary Gigantic); and "Memo to Human Resources," Flans' affecting ode to white-collar depression and alienation, originally featured on this spring's Indestructible Object EP. But the remaining tracks are generally worthy additions to the TMBG songbook.
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Format: Audio CD
Lovely little album.
Experimental Film-- A superb song that just feels *so* much like Them.
Spine-- Short, sweet and cute.
Memo To Human Resources-- Decent song from Indestructible Object EP
Wearing a Raincoat-- strange, wonderful song. Of the class of songs that I feel TMBG wants you to have fun singing (like Hovering Sombrero, House at the Top of the Tree, etc)
Prevenge-- Good, but much more a Mono Puff song than TMBG.
Thunderbird-- Delightful Linnell song. Probably will be one of your favorites.
Bastard Wants To Hit Me-- AMAZING. The first brilliant experimental song by TMBG in years. The other reviewers can't stand it, but I think they're just crazy. Give it a chance, it's so crisp, fun and paranoid. It's not dance music, but it is genius.
The World Before Later On-- Slow, short, solid track.
Museum Of Idiots-- You have to love this rendition. Crisp, beautiful, with horns playing accompaniment. They even seem to use horns for percussion. They've played MoI so many times Live that it must have been easy to perfect it on CD.
It's Kickin' In-- Another Mono Puff sort of song, but is experimental enough to stay in the TMBG realm. Quick, hopping, somewhat psychadelic.
Spines-- Half-minute of odd 'pop' music.
Au Contraire-- One of the best TMBG songs in years. Also on Indestructible Object.
Damm Good Times-- Flansburgh having fun, neat song.
Broke In Two-- Music reminds me a little of custom Weird Al riffs. Not overly impressive, but not bad.
Stalk of Wheat-- They're completely having fun with this one. So cute and playful.
I Can't Hide From My Mind-- Old school Dial-A-Song track, back with a completely different tune and a bit extended. Pleasant, slow and a bit tropical.
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