Sound — 5
I'll go track by track on this, and assume you're at least somewhat familiar with the band's earlier work, because this album borrows pretty heavily from it. 01. I'm Impressed - repetitive, and kind of grating. But it'll still get stuck in your head for hours after listening to it. 02. Take Out The Trash - opens with handclaps, which is cool, but the song itself really sounds like it would be right at home in a pizza commercial or something. Lame. 03. Upside Down Frown - a slower, somewhat pleasant pop song. It sounds like something that would've been a B-side on "Flood." The production brings to mind their old days as a two-piece, but it still feels like something's missing. 04. Climbing The Walls - this is probably my favorite song on the album. Kinda has an "Apollo 18" feel. A darker melody than most of the others on the album, with a kinda dancey bridge. 05. Careful What You Pack - another slow song, reminiscent of "John Henry's" poppier bits. Definitely pretty enjoyable, but ultimately, just not that memorable. 06. The Cap'm - another track that sounds like something that got left off of "Flood." Seeing a pattern here? It's a pretty forgettable song, but nice when you're actually listening to it. 07. With The Dark - they Might Be Giants attempt a mini-rock opera, never staying in the same genre for very long, and ending long before it manages to live up to it's ambition, leaving you going, "what the hell did I just listen to?" Further listens will she'd no light on this query. 08. Shadow Government - one of TMBG's few (and possibly only) political songs. It sounds like TMBG, without reminding me too much of something they've already done before. 09. The Bee Of The Bird Of The Moth - a bit too goofy, even for TMBG. Musically, it sounds like a novelty song. Lyrically, it more or less IS a novelty song. This is one of the worst tracks on the album. 10. Withered Hope - really repetitive, forgettable, and monotonous. The buildup is more interesting to listen to, but it can't quite save the song. You'll also never want to hear the phrase "sad sack" again after you hear this song. 11. Contrecoup - a relationship song written in terms relating to brain surgery. It's catchy, and, while it reminds me a lot of "Flood," yet again, it adds to the formula sufficiently to stand on it's own. 12. Feign Amnesia - fast, poppy, and pretty fun. Doesn't really go anywhere, though. 13. The Mesopotamians - this is classic TMBG. Aside from some more awkward lyrics, it's catchy, bouncy, pop along the same lines as classics like "Meet James Ensor," and "Why Does the Sun Shine?" It seems to end far sooner than it should, too, like it was half-finished when they recorded it. So there you have it. A record that really doesn't tread a lot of new territory, and makes you wish it hadn't when it does. Overall, it's a pleasant enough listen, but with a back catalog as good as theirs, I was left disappointed by this album. It has a somewhat rushed feel to it, all around. Like things were left un-thought out, and recorded as-is in an unfinished state. Given some work, a lot of the bad, or forgettable songs probably could've been better, and the good songs could've stood out on par with some of their older material. Unfortunately, this is the album they released, and it's definitely not very good.
Lyrics — 2
Overall, the lyrics on this album feel rushed. They lack the subtlety and cleverness that made their earlier work so good. The jokes feel like jokes rather than just a natural part of the songs. They nearly send the band headfirst into the novelty band hell they've managed to avoid for so long. That's definitely the weakest thing about this album. For every good lyric, there's a stinker like, "'Cause you think that I'm high on pot/but I'm not." No song is without at least one cringe-worthy line. On a lot of it, I get the feeling they're having a hard time not writing for kids. Even the songs that deal with more serious subjects. Even in songs clearly aimed at adults, they'll still throw in obnoxious, sing-songy rhymes and it'll just come off "too clean," like there's an invisible line they're afraid to cross.
Overall Impression — 5
I love their old material. In fact, I've called these guys my favorite band for more than half of my life, and I still do. But this band is not the band I liked when I was a kid. Everything about this album just feels rushed. Like they wrote and recorded the songs just to get something new out there. Even the LP jacket is flimsy, and covered with a cheap gloss, and while it's not standard for the gatefold to be glued shut on one side for a single LP anymore, it's also not standard for it to hang open, and the artwork almost makes me think they spent more time taking goofy pictures than they did writing the songs. It's not without occasional flashes of the greatness that could've been, but overall, it's sunk by the awkward lyrics and lazy songwriting that was.