They Might Be Giants, GLEAN

They Might Be Giants began back in the 1980s with their Dial-a-Song promotion, where people could call a number and hear one of their songs on their answering machine.  TMBG started that up again (though with a far more sophisticated "answering machine") -- and 16 of those songs made it onto Glean, their new album.  Who'd  have guessed such a disjointed origin could result in a pretty consistent album?

As with most TBMG albums, Glean tends towards quirkiness, both lyrically and musically.  There are rock and pop songs ("Erase," "All the Lazy Boyfriends"), almost spoken word ("Madam, I Challenge You to a Duel"), jazz ("Let Me Tell You about My Operation"), and the instrumental title track.  The lyrics are usually strange, often clever (and sometimes too clever), and have both a sense of humor and an undertone of darkness to many of them, whether it's the worst-romantic-song "Answer" or the paranoid "aaa."

I enjoyed Glean.  While not all of the songs are good, there are far fewer terrible songs than on the past few TMBG albums, and quite a few catchy ones.  Glean is a pretty good return to form for They Might Be Giants, often capturing their strangeness, darkness, and funniness together.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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