Album Review: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS’ “Phone Power”

They Might Be Giants' Phone Power
Review by Ellie Garno

Phone Power, from the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, is something MCU readers might not be used to.  But that’s okay!  If you didn’t get a chance to listen during its limited digital release back in March, the whopping 18-track album was released Friday, June 10th.  Produced by Pat Dillett (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent), Phone Power includes standouts “I Love You for Psychological Reasons,” “Sold My Mind to the Kremlin,” and “Bills, Bills, Bills,” a disarming reworking of the Destiny’s Child classic and highlight of They Might Be Giants shows in recent years.

But first, They Might Be Giants, aka TMBG, has a long and interesting history, which starts when John Flansburgh and John Linnell met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts.  The two began performing as TMBG in and around New York City in the eighties, Flansburgh on guitar and Linnell on accordion and saxophone.  Later on in the decade, the off-kilter duo began releasing new music via an answering machine, a project they called “Dial-A-Song” where fans called a Brooklyn phone number, advertised in local newspapers, to listen to a tape of the band playing various songs, ranging from demos and uncompleted work to mock advertisements they had created.  Last year, TMBG revived the “service” with a new phone number, as well as a website and a radio network; Phone Power is their third album that features tracks from Dial-A-Song 2015 (also Glean and Why?).

Fun and funny, those’re the kind of songs on Phone Power.  The title of “I Love You for Psychological Reasons” pretty much says it all.  (“Reasons we should probably not get into right now,” it ends.)  Musically, quirky verses mimic the downstep melody, and later, a keyboard does the same.  “Sold My Mind to the Kremlin” has the same sort of not-so-seriousness.  Short and sweet, it’s about giving up on the American Dream for a place where “Fishing holes don’t exist and country music with all those lists,” but sounds like an early video game.  Finally, TMBG puts a rock ‘n’ roll spin on “Bills, Bills, Bills,” which they recorded last year for A.V. Club’s Undercover series.  They’re no Bey, but it’ll have you bobbing your head.

Recommended Track: “I Love You for Psychological Reasons”

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