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Album Review

Perhaps it's no surprise that following 1996's Factory Showroom, They Might Be Giants began a prolonged recording absence, releasing only the Internet-only album Long Tall Weekend in 1999. Factory Showroom suggested that the band had backed themselves into a corner, as the humor of their early records had waned and even the band's trademark hooks were confined to a few tracks. Mink Car, however, symbolizes a radical shift in direction — backward — into some of the same stylistic territory covered on their landmark 1990 album, Flood. Nowhere is this shift more evident than in the choice of Flood producers Langer and Winstanley on several cuts, particularly the Flood sound-alike "Bangs." Mink Car is far from a retread, however, as the band takes lessons that they've learned since 1990 — like that they sound really, really good when they play with a full band — and incorporates them into that classic sound. That means that Mink Car is in many ways the beginning of a new part of They Might Be Giants' career. Much like on Factory Showroom, the band does recycle a few cuts, including "Older" and "She Thinks She's Edith Head" from Long Tall Weekend and the non-LP single "Working Undercover for the Man" for the disc. But of the cuts, there's a healthy mixture of old-school TMBG humor in strange, short songs like "I've Got a Fang" and "Wicked Little Critta," and fairly straightforward pop/rock like "Another First Kiss." That track and the mock-Euro-disco-based first single, "Man, It's So Loud in Here," both sport the trademark radio-ready production of Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlessinger, who pops up in one of many cameo spots on the album. Former Soul Coughing vocalist M. Doughty also stops by to sing on a track, and Catatonia frontwoman Cerys Matthews screams one frightening verse in the stomping "Cyclops Rock." All this may sound like a mess, but the band seems to have realized that they're often loved because their sound is all over the place, not in spite of it, and in response to that revelation they've released one of their strongest batches of songs.


Formed: 1983 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Combining a knack for infectious melodies with a quirky sense of humor and a vaguely avant-garde aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk underground, They Might Be Giants became an unlikely alternative rock success story as they reinvented themselves throughout their career. Musically, John Flansburgh and John Linnell borrowed from everywhere, but this eclecticism was enhanced by their arcane sensibilities. The duo referenced everything from British Invasion to Tin Pan Alley, while making...
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