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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Listen to This While High: They Might Be Giants' 'Album Raises New and Troubling Questions'

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM

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Listen to this while high: Album Raises New and Troubling Questions by They Might Be Giants

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Behind the buzz: Here is a collection of notable sweepings, left-offs and rejiggerings of classic old stuff thrown out for Yuletide trade. On this followup to last summer's Join Us studio album and subsequent tour, the twin titans of '80s and '90s college radio show little sign of approaching infirmity or humorlessness as Johns Flansburgh and Linell once again turn up the quirk. Fans will revel in the scads of videos and other goodies thrown on for added value.

Today's weed: A dense, Lavender-like indica strain named White Rascal.

Particle Men: "O We" is a skittering fragment that winds up and stops like the elevator music they used to play on skyscraper lifts back during the Milltown Generation. That not all of the duo's conceits are gonna work is obvious from the sub-Nabokovian satire of "Authenticity Trip" and the thrice-told anxiety parable "You Probably Get That a Lot (Elegant Too remix)," which strikes my ears as a drum-machine downsizing of The Police's "Does Everyone Stare." A charming confession of ineptitude, "Marty Beller Mask" is rather less winningly exposed and vulnerable as the sad-sack tossoff "Now I Know." "How Now Dark Cloud" is a punky-pop goof on Jimmy Webb's famously melting cake. "Fellowship of Hell" cranks the three-chord snot quotient higher without taking the satire much beyond Police Academy level. "Mountain Flowers" is fragmented fly-on-the-bunker-wall paranoia seen and raised by the incoherent violent fantasies meted out in "Doppelgangers of They." The forgettable "Read a Book" is less song and more motivation to do just that, and "Havalina" little better, but the goof on the Chumbawumba golden oldie "Tubthumping" rallies proceedings to the level of prospective smirk. "Electronic Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" sounds like the band's hit cover as remixed by disco mice. The fadeout's saved for a Harry Chapinesque pass at "Particle Man," the laconic delivery adding yet another mote of weary irony to that deathless piece of self-knowing fluff.

Psychoactive verdict: Intermittently inspired nonsense that reminds me of the later Jerry Lewis movies, in which the star runs simultaneously in every direction at once, including his own past. If you're a fan, hilarity ensues, and everyone else might as well blame France or Frank Tashlin.

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