CD: They Might Be Giants - Nanobots | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
Pop geeks make fun album for the whole family
Over here, They Might Be Giants are mainly known for the insanely catchy “Birdhouse in My Soul”. There's also a general assumption that it's their only hit, and a suspicion that they're, probably, Canadian. In fact, TMBG are a Brooklyn-based band centred around founders John Flansburgh and John Linnell. A long and often successful career in the States has included several children's albums and even the theme for the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. The latter won them a Grammy. Nanobots is their 16th album and, quite consciously, looks back over their 21 years in pop.
Impressively, it does so – for the most part, at least - without becoming irritating. The New Yorkers have produced 45 minutes of quirky pop, much of which transports the listener to a world of childlike delight. The album was produced by Partrick Dillett who has worked with David Byrne, and a Byrne-like sense naïvety combined with intelligence frequently rises to the surface. There’s even a bit of political satire on the song “Black Ops”. Don’t be fooled, however - the overall feel of the album is best captured by the promo for the title track, which features cartoon mice making tiny robots (see below)
Three wonderfully-crafted examples of power-pop glue the album together. These are “You’re on Fire”, “Stone Cold Coup d’Etat” and “Tesla". The latter is not only a gorgeous song but a surprisingly pithy summary of the life of scientist Nikola Tesla. The overall finish of the LP is spoiled, however, by an overabundance of short, incomplete musical ideas, many of which sound like rejected jingles for Sesame Street. The second half contains no fewer than seven songs under a minute long and they all really belong elsewhere. For the most part, however, They Might Be Giants have created something almost unique: a genuinely entertaining family pop album.
Watch the video for "Nanobots"
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Music crosses borders in the shadow of war, with Bassekou Kouyaté and Paul Weller
Peculiarly packaged two-volume collection of essential Seventies Nigerian soul-rock
Scottish and English folk ballads are given the ambient drone treatment by the Earth mainman
British space-funk collective blend local and global while keeping rumps shaking
The producer and record label boss delivers a beautiful blend of influences
Yet another frustrating album from the art-punk outfit
A glimpse of what Europe's cosmopolitanism can really mean in Barcelona
From alt-pop to doom metal to Haitian party tunes, all musical life is here
Expect the unexpected on Canadian songwriter's immersive breakup album
This self-declared official 40th anniversary of punk compilation misses the mark
Game-changing US producer embraces the new with mixed results
The distinctive singer struggles to find a unique voice