Forgotten Album of the Month: They Might Be Giants
Nowadays, everyone knows that They Might Be Giants are legends and geniuses but back in the mid nineties, their stock was declining and album sales were slowing down. But that has never mattered to the band and in some cases, they will still be able to make some really excellent music. One of those cases was 1994, as their record label, Elektra’s interest in them was falling, they emerged with what I feel is one of their best records, John Henry.
Their first record with a full-fledged band, in this case, the kickass rhythm section of drummer Brian Doherty (The Silos) and bassist Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu), Johns Flanburgh and Linnell came back after the relatively disappointing Apollo 18 with a strong collection of bathed in fuzz rock songs. Kicking off with the experimental “Subliminal,” which contains at the end, the song in reverse, the band came out with undoubtedly their funkiest single ever, “Snail Shell,” which contains a great bass workout from Maimone. With crystal clear production, the band was able to expand their ever changing music palette to include everything to an Alice Cooper tribute, “Why Must I Be Sad,” sixties surf music, the killer and almost never ending “Spy” to acapella with the group Hudson Shad, “O, Do Not Forsake Me.”
The album also contains one of their most recognizable and historical songs, “Meet James Ensor,” about a once-famous Belgian painter who eventually lost his mind. It’s interesting to note that because of interest in the song, Ensor’s profile was raised much higher than it had been in decades. Closing out the album are the double hitter of the almost punk rock “Stomp Box” and the mournful, almost lamenting “The End of the Tour,” which are two of the best songs the band ever recorded. At 20 songs, it was almost too much to take for some people back in 1994 but then again, their breakthrough Flood had 19 songs. The record was the biggest disappointment critically and commercially the band had yet experienced but over time, as people have gotten more used to several songs during their live shows, interest in the album is better than it ever has been and as more people rediscover the album, perhaps the stigma that it’s attached to will be forever lifted.
http://www.singingfool.com/Title.aspx?publishedid=298838 (Snail Shell)