They Might Be Giants released their new album The Else today, iTunes only, 2 months before the CD comes out. (Though the CD is actually going to be 2 CDs, apparently.) I'd just as soon have had them selling DRM-free mp3s on theymightbegiants.com, but I bought it off iTunes anyway. It's a good album, though like most of their recent albums, I have a hard time getting fully behind it because it divides so sharply down the Flansburgh | Linnell line. Their earlier stuff was more homogeneous, I think, and it was easy to like entire albums. Nowadays, I usually feel like more of a Linnell fan than a TMBG fan. (E.g. when the heck is he going to write more State Songs?)
That said, I will give Flansburgh credit for With the Dark. I really like how the several parts are so different and yet still flow well into each other. Some pieces of it do sound "typically Flansy," but the track as a whole is made more interesting than that by the combination and juxtapositions. The instrumental part is pretty neat, and for some reason the one bit about taxidermy cracks me up. So anyway, good job there, Flans.
Contrecoup was the only song on here that I'd heard before, and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I don't think it fits well with the rest of the album, due mostly to the instrumentation, I think. The simple acoustic guitar works well in the context of making up a song as a challenge on a radio show, but less so in the midst of their other stuff. So it lost a bit by that, even though they actually extended the song somewhat. I'm also not fond of the changed rhyme scheme at the end. They took an AABC (where the B had an internal rhyme) and made it an ABBC which makes the first B sound wrong (especially since my mind is pre-filling in something that actually does rhyme). Urgh. The gradual speeding up at the end was kind of cute though, even if it didn't go anywhere but to a fadeout.
Others I liked include Bee of the Bird of the Moth which is based on a nifty critter called the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth. The word play here is fun, with the equal / freak-we'll rhyme, and the line with head lice, heads lie and headlights. I like the dramatic beginning to the melody in Climbing the Walls, though it ironically sounds more like coming down from the walls than climbing them. While I love the chorus of Withered Hope, I need to work on liking the rest of it more so it doesn't feel lopsided. The Mesopotamians is fun just to get to sing "Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh."
Anyway, I'll probably listen to the whole album as a unit a few more times, to let things settle in more before I send it all into the usual TMBG division of tracks I listen to and those I don't.