They Might be Giants – Join Us (2011)

I look at a band like They Might be Giants and am just a little amazed. They have been around officially since 1982, which puts them in the same ballpark as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM and The Smiths. Yet, most of you have probably never heard of them nor can you hum a single recognizable tune by them. I just have to wonder what would keep me making music for that long with such little success or accomplishment. When you love what you do, I guess you love what you do. But, man, you’d think after thirty years that they would have hit their stride by now instead of putting out the stuff that you hear on Join Us.

I guess I can’t really point to anything too specific about the album that makes it subpar other than the fact that it annoys me and makes me unhappy when I hear it. I am not asking for overly intelligent lyrics (I just raved about Ty Segall’s album), but throw me something a little better than this shit. “You Can’t Keep Johnny Down” gives us such poetry as “Some dude/ hittin’ golf balls on the moon/ bathroom in his pants…” do I need to go on? And I am well aware that they pride themselves upon their upbeat lyrics and optimism, but at what point do we stop calling that intentional and just admit that it’s bad? I’m drawing the line. I don’t think they are visionaries who choose to see the sunny side of life (as opposed to, say, Bob Dylan?), I think they are terrible songwriters who suck people in with this trick.

It’s really unbearable after a few songs. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that “Old Pine Box” was some Tenacious D B-side. Instead, these men aren’t trying to make you laugh. It’s really not personal. Both John Lindell and John Flansburgh both seem like good guys. Both are married and raising families at this point and I understand that you want to make albums that the whole household can enjoy, but you would have to understand why that doesn’t appeal to me or anyone over the age of eight. Getting through the faux-polka “Cloisonne,” the Mario Kart synthesized “Celebration,” and the utterly indescribable “The Lady and the Tiger” are just outright excruciating. Admirable if you can make it through it. But that’s where it really becomes a test of your patience. It’s eighteen fucking tracks! They just won’t stop. Each song seemingly stupider than the last.

It’s not outright terrible because they never really go for it. They never once asked me to take what they were doing seriously. It’s hard to get upset. Yet, each time one of their smug little sophomoric beats starts a song and their juvenile lyrics begin, I truly start to hate them. I can’t imagine that I would be damaging any egos here. This is a band who is best known for contributing the opening theme song for Malcolm in the Middle (a decent show, but do you want that to be your legacy AS A BAND?) Their last two albums were designed to help children learn to count and say their ABCs. Admirable? Sure. Artistic? Definitely not.

And now entering their third decade of mediocrity they’re asking me to join them?

I’m good.


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