Highlights: Can’t Keep Johnny Down, Canajoharie, Celebration, When Will You Die
After a number of albums for kids (decent enough, but with fairly limited appeal), They Might Be Giants are back with a proper/‘mature’ release. As ever, Join Us is filled with their trademark nerdy pop, infectious but with that unmistakable novelty, cartoonish feel to it.
18 songs this time, and at least 7 of those will get stuck in your head for a week or two. These would include the driving, intense pop-rockers like “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” and “You Probably Get That A Lot” as well as more vocally complex melodies (the chorus of the brilliant “Canajoharie” is particularly noteworthy). There are some successful jazzy numbers and some flat out novelty moments (interestingly, I could well imagine “The Lady And The Tiger” or the slightly annoying “Dog Walker” performed by Ween). In terms of vocals/arrangements/instrumentation/lyrics, there’s virtually nothing that could distinguish Join Us from those glorious 90’s albums. A good thing, I recon – after all, a change of direction is akin to a suicide in this case. Actually, speaking of lyrics, the most memorable song has to be “When Will You Die” (could be dedicated to Belarus) – which is so full of raging, uncompromising hatred – the effect is most hilarious.
In the end, Join Us might not be as good as John Henry or Lincoln (that cover won't help either), and probably won’t make you join them if you haven’t done that yet. But a nice addition to your They Might Be Giants collection. After all, a good TMBG song is about as irresistible as this world gets.