Sound: "Join Us" absolutely sounds like They Might Be Giants, but maybe a little more experimental as far as arrangement, vocal delivery/melody, and instrumentation. There is a lot to love on this album, as far as vocal harmonies, guitar melodies, interesting percussion and an interesting vocal delivery and lyrics. "Join Us" is a pop album but is diverse in sound and instrumentation, with a strong rhythmic pulse. The multitude of guitar tones, horns, bass, hand-clapping, finger-snapping, accordion, clarinet are very engaging and will keep you listening. They Might Be Giants was striving to return to the energy they had in their early releases in the late 80's, and I feel like they have accomplished that with this album. I heard at least one short guitar solo in here, too. I promise.
If I was going to try to describe the sound of TMBG and this album specifically to someone who hasn't heard them before, then I would probably say it is like a mix of Mothers Of Invention, Modest Mouse, Mc Chris, a couple of nerds with a dash of Sesame Street. Reading back over that it doesn't sound too great, but I promise it is worth it if you listen to it. This is really my favorite TMBG's album since their self-titled album released in 1986. // 9
Lyrics: The cadence and melody of the vocals is really interesting throughout the album. The lyrics are all sung like a story that catches and holds your attention. Occasionally the vocals are used as the primary melody instrument for portions of the songs. The vocal harmonies are well done when they are used. TMBG are accomplished songwriters, and this is shown lyrically on "Join Us". They really use contrast a lot, having very happy catchy pop music with very cynical, negative and introspective lyrics. The main difference from their past albums, lyrically, would be that the subject matter of "Join Us" is much more serious at times, though to the backdrop of sunshiney music.
Subjects covered in the lyrics include burnouts, perception of the world, sleestaks from Land of the Lost, love, optimism, betrayal and death. Overall, this is a very hard album to classify on lyrical content alone because the subjects vary so greatly. The song "Spoiler Alert" does something really interesting by having two completely different sets of lyrics sang by the two founding members of TMBG. They are each panned to the far side of the mix one to each side. // 8
Overall Impression: I immediately found myself tapping my foot to every song on "Join Us". The album clocks in at just over 47 minutes with 18 tracks, which is a respectable length and awesome when filled with good quality tracks. Every track is superbly arranged and stays interesting. I stayed very interested in waiting to see what instrumentation would be used in the next song. "The Lady And The Tiger" is probably my favorite song on the album. "You Don't Like Me" is a close tie with "The Lay And The Tiger". "You Don't Like Me" in a lot of ways is a song that I identify with. There is an interesting energy in this album, and I think it will be in regular rotation on my mp3 player. Honestly, I don't think I've stayed this interested in an album for this many repeated listens for a long time. // 9
- Brandon East (c) 2011