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Album Review: They Might Be Giants – Glean

2 min read

They Might Be Giants may well be the most adventurous alternative rock band born out of the 90’s, a decade renowned for its musical experimentation. Indeed, the only thread tying together the group’s myriad of releases and sounds is a constant desire to push the envelope. The fifteen tracks compiled on Glean, originally recorded as part of the band’s resurrected “Dial A Song” project, see the group experimenting with form, tone and instrumentation, all the while reminding us of their unparalleled skill when it comes to crafting songs that combine innocent with experience.

They Might Be Giants - GleanMusically, the most ‘normal’ tracks Glean has to offer are Good To Be Alive and Answer, with the latter calling to mind the band’s hit Boss Of Me, if only because both songs represent the more radio friendly element of the TMBG’s work. But, though these songs may be more typically orchestrated, they are as exuberant as everything else on Glean; they’re endlessly enjoyable, defiantly upbeat hits.

That said the highlights of Glean are undeniably the songs where the band throw a complete left turn. Music Jail Pt. 1 & 2 is a slice of deliciously lush baroque pop. It’s fun and funny, but never feels like a ‘novelty song’ and is ultimately typically odd, typically wonderful TMBG fare. The glitzy sheen of All The Lazy Boyfriends similarly impresses; it’s electro pop marked by a subtle strain of humor, and a layer of impressively bittersweet observation (“who needs motivation when you live in your head?”)

Singer John Flansburgh’s vocals are as distinctive and impressive as ever, as are his talents for penning kooky lyrics. The Broadway-esque End Of The Rope best shows off both his voice and his words, and as ever, it is defined by its deliriously, deliciously dinky tone.  Let Me Tell You About My Operation is a similarly off-beat number – who could have guessed from that title? – marrying  as it does  wry humor with a deliciously upbeat vibe.

Glean may be in some ways impossible to summarize or pigeon-hole, but the overriding emotion one is left with after the album’s forty minutes is through is a delirious sort of joy. It’s an emotion TMBG fans will have come to expect: there is after all something endlessly loveable about the band, and Glean represents another opportunity to submerse yourself in their unique world.

1 thought on “Album Review: They Might Be Giants – Glean

  1. Fully agree with everything you said in this review. It’s another great TMBG album, solid all the way through. I’ve only been listening to it a few days, and many of the songs are already well-lodged in my head. On a technical note, this album in particular *sounds* gorgeous–the richness of production puts me in mind of 2001’s Mink Car. This would be a perfect record to recommend to anyone who has never heard TMBG before.

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