They Might Be Giants – Book (Album Review)

They Might Be Giants – Book (Album Review)

Hands down, one of the most prolific and proficient bands in the realm of Alternative music, They Might Be Giants has just dropped its latest studio album before the year ends, and it is definitely a worthy addition to the American band’s voluminous discography.

Formed in 1982, in Brooklyn, New York, by John Flansburgh (vocals, guitar) and John Linnell (vocal, accordion, keyboards, woodwind), They Might Be Giants has eventually evolved into a proper band beginning in the late ’90s–currently with Dan Miller (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Danny Weinkuf (bass, keyboards), and Marty Beller (drums, percussion).

Catapulted to commercial popularity in 1990, with the release of their breakthrough album, Flood, the hardworking band combines Folk Rock, New Wave, Art Pop to come up with its own unique sound that appeals not only to Alternative Rock aficionados but also to children; yes, in the 2000s, They Might Be Giants did issue a number of Children-themed records.

Now, one-year-shy of their 40th anniversary, Flansburgh and Linnell–with the rest of their band–unleash their 23rd offering, titled Book. Released on November 12, 2021, via Idlewild Records, Book is a return to They Might Be Giants’ trademark melodic and quirky sonic excursions full of Pop sensibilities.

Book begins unassumingly with the introductory gallops of “Synopsis for Latecomers,” priming the listener for the coming buildup of the ensuing “Moonbeam Rays,” which exudes faint echoes of Smoking Popes’ “Mrs. You and Me” and Popsicle’s “Not Forever.” And then “I Broke My Own Rule” waltzes its way next, to be followed by the off-beat stomps of “Brontosaurus.”

They Might Be Giants then takes its listener to a subtle swing, with the funky groove of “Lord Snowdon.” And then there is the quite exotic homage song “‘If Day’ in Winnipeg,” which has a glaze of John Philip Sousa’s classic piece “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The following “I Can’t Remember the Dream” is another throwback, this time to the ’60s Garage Rock fun of The Troggs (“Wild Thing”) and The Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”). “Drown the Clown” and “Darling, the Dose” then relax the mood with their middle-of-the-road tempo, only to take the listener back to the bouncy spell of “I Lost Thursday.”

A mid-album highlight, “Part of You Wants to Believe in Me” conjures an image of a bird with a flute in one’s soul and then the Sunshine Pop-styled “Super Cool” and the syncopated “Wait Actually Yeah No” pulsate next. The authors then conclude their story with The Rentals-reminiscent “Quit the Circus” and, finally, with the bright, celebratory beat of “Less than One.”

In the ever-dynamic and progressive music landscape, They Might Be Giants continue to pride itself–either consciously or not–as one of the wholesome and awesome flag bearers of the genre it operates within. Never bereft of fun, energy, and catchy ideas, the band proves with Book that its adventures are not yet over. In fact, it seems that the coming new year will be a start of another decade of musical delight from the two Johns and the rest of the giants. For all these, Cryptic Rock gives Book 4 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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