They Might Be Giants: Indestructible Object

Gary Glauber

While Indestructible Object is pleasant but brief, these five tracks are not essential except perhaps to fans of They Might Be Giants who can't wait until the full-length CD is released later this year.

They Might Be Giants

Indestructible Object

Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2004-04-06
UK Release Date: Available as import

Time flies when you're garnering success. It's hard to believe that eclectic art-rockers They Might Be Giants have been creating music for as long as they have, but check the calendars: 20 years and counting. But now, along with their solid cult of core fans who've been devoted since day one, the two Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) have become something of a popular multimedia phenomenon.

They're known for their theme song for Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, their commercial work (I believe it was for Dodge), their collaborations with NPR's This American Life and McSweeney's literary journal, their movies and DVDs (the 2002 documentary Gigantic, their musical contribution to The Spy Who Shagged Me), their children's books and CDs (2002's No! and last year's book/CD set Bed, Bed, Bed), their dial-a-song phone and web service, as well as a busy live performance schedule. Bottom line: they're really busy guys.

With all this good stuff going on, Linnell, Flansburgh and their band of Dans haven't been back in the studio for a rock recording since 2001's delightful Mink Car. Fans are restless. Recognizing this, TMBG has put together a 5-song EP as sort of a musical snack to tide over the appetites of those waiting for the full-length release scheduled for later this year.

Starting off this EP is the electronica-suffused track "Am I Awake?" -- the theme song for TLC's doctor reality series Resident Life. The lyrics really convey that feeling of total confusion brought on by exhaustion: "When I close my eyes it looks the same as when I open them again / Am I awake? What time is it? / Is it that time again, wasn't it already then / so does it have to be the time it was again? / When I get through this day, can't someone tell me how / and how much longer now am I awake?"

The second track is the lovely but short "Memo to Human Resources", which finds TMBG in harmonic Fountains of Wayne mode (akin to "Another First Kiss"). Lyrically, they are on top of their game: "I'll be in the back and I don't need the help / I'm good here in the back, I'm good all by myself / I'm busy taking stock of all the things that I forgot / and making mental notes of just exactly where I lost the plot / I stuck around too long feeling sorry for myself / A disinvited guest rifles through the bathroom shelf / I'm searching for some disbelief that I can still suspend / but nevermind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense again".

"Au Contraire" is typically silly TMBG fare. Catchy music, nifty flute solo and lyrics that take historical liberties while making little sense: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew not what to do / This tie clashes with my hat, he cried, don't you think that's true? / Au contraire, Delano / Hate to rain on your parade /As it happens, au contraire / Au contraire, mon frere". The third verse involves a poker game between Jodie Foster, Bach, and Mahatma Gandhi.

The radically re-worked "Ant" is track four here, a part of TMBG's brass band's "Other Thing". It builds slowly until it really swings and features some great trumpet work from Mark Pender (of the Late Night With Conan O'Brien band). Lyrical silliness continues unabated, as we follow "an ant crawling up your back in the nighttime". That ant crawls in your head and eventually becomes president (nice incorporation of "Hail to the Chief" as well). It gets even more random from there, but is that any surprise?

The final track here (again featuring a cameo from trumpeter Mark Pender) is a live recording faithfully covering the Brian Wilson Pet Sounds classic, "Caroline, No".

While Indestructible Object is pleasant but brief, these five tracks are not essential except perhaps to fans of They Might Be Giants who can't wait until the full-length CD is released later this year. Then again, after 20 plus years, there are many who fit that bill -- and I'm certainly eager to hear more of what's coming.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.