They Might Be Giants, BOOK

The TMBG formula still holds in 2021 — an inexplicable cover, an opaque title — but for a late-career record it's a relief this one's not purely by the numbers. Reflective of quarantine sensibilities the tracks are longer and (at least for this band) more meditative, especially my favourite track "I Can't Remember the Dream," the backwards echo of "I Broke My Own Rule" and the mesmerizing "Wait Actually Yeah No," though their tilted college rock feel is alive and well in tracks like "Moonbeam Rays," closer "Less Than One" and "Brontosaurus" ("It had been going so well/and then I broke my eggshell") with even a bit of dance music in "I Lost Thursday." Longtime fans may decry the lowered weirdness quotient, with the possible exception of that farty foghorn thing in "If Day for Winnipeg" and the album's best lyrics "Put on the cuffs/I've broken Godwin's law," maybe the subtle sly snark of "Super Cool," and in a like fashion some of the songs are uncharacteristically downright conventional (even with the lyrics "Darling, The Dose" could practically be a lost Beach Boys session; the boring "Lord Snowden" comes off like Al Stewart in a bad way). But other than the unnecessary lead-in "Synopsis for Latecomers" which absolutely fails to set the proper tone at all, there's really only two serious things wrong with this disc: first, dammit, why are there no track names in the CD gatefold, and second, why do we have to pay so much to get your baffling too-big-for-liner notes companion book? Don't tease me with that title if there's not gonna be one. (Content: no concerns.)