“I’m going down to Cowtown
The cow’s a friend to me
Lives beneath the ocean and that’s where I will be
Beneath the waves, the waves
And that’s where I will be
I’m gonna see the cow beneath the sea”
“I remember the year I went to camp
I heard about some lady named Selma and some blacks
Somebody put their fingers in the President’s ears
It wasn’t too much later they came out with Johnson’s wax”
“I saw my baby wearing Santa’s beard
She kissed him once and whispered in his ear
I saw my baby wearing Santa’s beard
I wish he would go
He’s breaking up my home”
There. Review over. Does it get any more perfect then that? People often try to draw parallels between modern music and unquestioned landmarks (EG “What’s our generation’s version of the Beatles?”), and I find those pursuits more frivolous then anything. But I swear, the only lyricist that even remotely reminds me of They Might Be Giants is Bob Dylan. Even that’s not a perfect comparison; Dylan’s insane imagery came from a disjointed emotional state. TMBG are Lewis Carol-style masters of well-orchestrated nonsense, and as a lover of absurdity it fills me with glee.
Oh, wait, this is a music review. Well, the music’s fantastic, but largely in the same vein as the debut. They do have a bigger production budget, which is probably the biggest difference. The debut sounds fine, but unless the whole “this could have been recorded in a college dorm” style appeals to you, you won’t find it that impressive. Most bands would use this bigger budget to slicken up their sound, improve their professionalism. I’m not sure what TMBG did with theirs, but I’d like to think they bought a few more accordions and some snacks. Either way, the sound is crisper and the arrangements a bit more elaborate.
Thankfully, none of this detracts from the experience of two goofy guys with minimal equipment and a knack for hooks writing the dorkiest music imaginable. The singing is a lot less nasally this time around, and I do kind of miss that layer of geekiness, but who cares when the vocals themselves are so entertaining? There’s funny affectations, a human tone, and a surprising amount of professional restraint. Muh boys are growing up, methinks.
The songwriting is even better than the debut. These guys’ approach to melody reminds me of SOMETHING, but I can’t figure it out. The best I can come up with is a bizarre mix of bouncy nostalgic pop, dynamically soaring musical theatre, modestly strumming folk, and unprofessional garage rock. I mean all of this in the best possible way. Not only are they catchy (and ho boy, if you don’t have half the hooks stuck in your head after a few listens, you need to get better at music), but they’re incredibly entertaining to follow along with. And they’re so ECLECTIC! When they’re at the top of their game, these guys could write a convincing melody for any genre imaginable.
I suppose I haven’t given any descriptions of the actual songs, but dangit, these are hard songs to describe. The opener “Ana Ng” is an engagingly jagged rocker that sounds like “Brown Sugar” as reimaged by a lonely, socially conscious nerd. “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” is one of the biggest oddballs, conjuring a surprisingly thick atmosphere and creepy lyrics. “Mr Me” is an uptempo polka song with more hilarious lyrics (“Or end up sad like Mister Me/He ended up sad/He ended up sad/He ended up really, really, really sad”). “The World’s Address” is samba-like, with a melody that could be adequately described as “spicy.” “Shoehorn with Teeth” has some of my favorite satirical lyrics on the album, and one of the most disjointedly fun melodies. “Snowball in Hell” is a surprisingly lovely semi-ballad, but with an accordion because of course. My favorite of the bunch is the power pop rocker “Purple Toupee”, with an infectiously swelling chorus that’s nigh impossible to not sing along with and riffs that could easily rock a metalhead crowd if given a few more layers of heaviness. That’s seven highlights out of eighteen, but they’re really arbitrarily chosen. Like the debut, Lincoln is extremely consistent, with nary a problematic song in sight. Even if there was, they’re so short that it would matter all that much.
In short, Lincoln is basically the debut, but marginally better. It’s Master of Puppets to the debuts’ Ride the Lightning. The only big upgrade is in the sound department, and even that’s only technical stuff. The melodies are better, but only a bit. The lyrics are better but only a bit. The singing is better, but only a bit. And so it continues. Still, if you’re gonna tread water, it might was well be deep, impressive water.
Thematic Content: 3/5 It’s more about the journey then the destination, if you get my drift.
Lyricism: 5/5 “He asks a girl if they can both sit in a chair/But he doesn’t get nervous/She’s not really there”
Resonance: 3/5 A bit too jokey for a higher rating, unfortunately.
Experience: Falling down a hole into Wonderland as reimagined by a college creative writing class in the middle of election year.
10/10. Best Song: Purple Toupee