As I mentioned in my intro blog I was going to have a series based on music releases (lps, cds,etc) called Sophomore Success. Basically what this entails is me reviewing (read gushing) over a band's second release, instead of their debut album. There's a term in entertainment industry known as the "sophomore slump". This is basically when critics and the general public feel that a performer's first outing was awesome and the second effort doesn't live up the grandness of the original. I myself have found that the opposite is true. Some debut music releases or movies are good but feel a bit uneven. It's only on the band's second release that they've found their footing. With that being said I'm going to discuss They Might Be Giants second CD Lincoln.
If you don't know who TMBG are then you need to get from under a rock and go by Lincoln right now. Released as a follow up to their self titled 1986 release, Lincoln is an amazing album that although was released in 1988 still holds up because it was ahead of it's time.
Where to begin? Let's try MTV for starters. Yes, believe it or not a long time ago Music Television used to actually play things called music videos. It must have been jarring to the target audience that was used to consuming Guns N Roses, Beastie Boys and other rock/pop/ and metal videos to see They Might Be Giants for the first time. Here were two guys who looked more like teachers than rock stars playing music that although poppy was different than what was normally shown during this era. Yet, for some reason the video for the first song of the CD "Ana NG" was in heavy rotation. It caused a nerdy 13 year old to rush right out and purchase a cassette.
What's a cassette grandpa? Oh yeah, I owned this bad boy on cassette not a CD and not a vinyl record. I played it till the chrome fell off. But I digress lets get to the music. As I mentioned earlier TMBG had a s/t release in 1986 and it had some good tunes but it was only a hint at what was to come. Lincoln is one of those rare records where every track is amazing. There are those that don't like a few of the tracks but given the average length of the songs is less than two minutes I'm not sure what they're complaining about.
Track 1 Ana Ng- A super catchy song about a guy who thinks that his soul mate must be on the opposite side of the world from where he is. So since he's in Australia, his soul mate would be in Peru. Confusing? Yes! Ultra cool? Yes! Bonus coolness for having a break in the song where a lady speaks through a phone and says "I don't want the world. I just want your half."
Track 2- Cowtown- How often did you hear a sea shanty on a pop record? Not too often. You also have to remember this was years before Ween released The Mollusk and Spongebob Squarepants was popular. Heavy accordion lead with play on word lyrics about manatees/sea life and non-sea creatures.
Track 3- Lie Still Little Bottle - A jazzy little beatnik tune with an awesome bassline talking about different forms of addiction.
Track 4-Purple Toupee- Another "hit" song/video of this album. The video was shown on MTV but not as much as Ana Ng. I feel this is the stand out track on the CD. Some say the lyrics make no sense. They are just aren't using their noodles. The song is about a man that jumbles up all the events of the 60s in a very funny way. If you know your history, this song is a gem.
Track 5-Cage & Aquarium- An odd little tune that recalls almost Residents style music. The lyrics are weird play on words of the term "dawning of the age of Aquarius"
Track 6-Where Your Eyes Don't Go- A song about paranoia with a great melody. Stand out lyric "everybody has a thinking part that wonder's what the part that isn't thinking, isn't thinking of. "
Track 7-Piece of Dirt- A tune about hanging on to something when you're lonely
Track 8-Mr Me.- Another sea shanty tune with the wonderful tongue twister "take the hand of Mr me and mister make him glad to swim the misty sea and cease the Mr mystery that mister made him sad"
Track 9-Pencil Rain- A battle song of sorts with heavy play on words. Also the only song I can think of to feature a Morse code solo.
Track 10- The Worlds Address- A fun dance tune with more word play.
Track 11-I've Got a Match- A break up tune. Every album needs at least one.
Track 12-Santa's Beard- A depressing yet catchy tune about infidelity during the holidays
Track 13-You'll Miss Me- Odd vocal effects and wailing saxes make you scratch your head
Track 14- They'll Need a Crane- Another awesome song that had a video as well. Catchiest song about divorce since Tammy Wynette's Divorce.
Track 15 -Shoehorn With Teeth- Weird and catchy and only 30 seconds.
Track 16-Stand On Your Own Head- A great song about putting your money where your mouth is
Track 17-Snowball in Hell- Happy accordion track. One of the few pop songs I know of to feature a sample from a How To Make Better Sales LP from the 60s.
Track 18-Kiss Me Son Of God- A delightful send up of cults/cult leaders. Those were big in the 80s
So there you have it. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants. You really have to hear the thing for yourself. Because my review is not giving it the justice it deserves. All of TMBG's albums are really unique and offer the listener an opportunity to think, because it's not standard pop. Believe it or not TMBG are still going strong releasing both records for adults and children's records. Their newer stuff for adults is good, but more rock oriented. Pick up some of their kids CDs and it's almost like listening to the goodness of Lincoln.
Enjoy it or not.