They Might Be Giants – The Else

I know it sounds crazy, but I firmly believe They Might Be Giants are one of our generations’ greatest musical successes. For over twenty five years, They Might Be Giants have managed to stay active, building up a new fanbase and remaining relevant and profitable. I have trouble thinking of another band, besides U2, that have done so well without having to resort to nostalgia or other lame gimmicks.

The Else is the12th studio album by They Might Be Giants, and the natural questions that arises are three fold – really? That “Particle Man” band? How does it rank with their back catalog? The answers are as follows – yes, yes, and somewhere between The Spine and Factory Showroom. The Else isn’t what anybody would consider a classic, like you could call a “Lincoln”, or a “Flood”, but it is a solid album that cements the Giants’ legend and their strange vitality in an industry where one is expected to burn out or kill yourself by the time you’re thirty.

If they didn’t make it official already, and much to the chagrin of some, the Giants are most certainly a rock band now – but this is hardly a bad thing. The Giants reinforce their energetic guitar licks and occasional droll, simplistic phrasings, with hooky, driving, choruses and complex, subtle subject matters. They Might Be Giants may not rock harder, but they do rock smarter – their lyrics are wickedly clever, ranging from puns to slant rhymes to delightful twists of phrases to dour, brainy musings. Behind their upbeat, simple-and-clean facade rests surprising darkness – feelings of loneliness, desire, paranoia, and more. The Giants are a deep band, a band who can write bouncy, light, “children’s” music about depression, despair, and alcoholism.

But regardless of what you think about the band and their music, you have to admit – nobody knows their audience like They Might Be Giants, and nobody treats their audience with more respect. The Else has been available on iTunes since June, but the physical album contains a bonus disc full of all the songs they released on their Podcast, plus some more rarities. With a podcast, their own online music store, an online radio station, and the ubiquitous Dial-A-Song (a phone number one can call to hear a TMBG tune, a service that has been around since the eighties and was streaming mp3s before there was streaming mp3s) The Giants are no longer a band, but an empire, and The Else is not an album, but a collection of songs to further establish their geek rock icon status. Though there may be some resentment from the die-hards, I have no problem with that, because The Else is lined up with catchy, solid songs that I can’t help but sing along to. So though it’s not the best Giants album – it’s good, and it’s kept me entertained.