Tuesday, July 7, 2020

They Might Be Giants 8: Factory Showroom

While they still had a rhythm section and horns at their disposal, on Factory Showroom They Might Be Giants managed to infuse some of their lo-fi whimsy into the more advanced proceedings. Economy extended to the program, which reduced the number of songs to give each more room to shine.
Kitsch is still king, from the Philly strings on “S-E-X-X-Y” to the mildly Memphis groove of “Pet Name”. “Till My Head Falls Off” is a wonderful punky celebration of stubbornness, but “How Can I Sing Like A Girl?” tries a little too hard to be cute. In contrast, “Exquisite Dead Guy” is built on very close wordless harmonies, while “Metal Detector” is the closest we get to geeky science this time out. A cover of a song by an obscure “cuddlecore” band, “New York City” is a love song, to a person as well as the metropolis itself.
The goofiness picks up on “Your Own Worst Enemy”, which illustrates a kind of madness with a reference to “Precious And Few”. “XTC vs. Adam Ant” imagines a heavyweight competition for the rock title between those two ‘80s icons, and while the music only occasionally hearkens to XTC, there’s a sly reference to the lead singer of Bow Wow Wow (a band made up of former Ants). The ultra-catchy “Spiraling Shape” is another hit single that never was. Some recycling occurs in “James K. Polk”, a remake of a Flood-era B-side that provides a fairly sanitized biography of the president. As long as they’re steeped in history, “I Can Hear You” provides some hilarious buzzwords and catchphrases related to modern technology, but was recorded solely on acoustic instruments using no electricity whatsoever to a vintage Edison cylinder. And just as “New York City” seems to evoke the holidays, “Bells Are Ringing” takes a seemingly harmless melody to the point of madness.
While still not as strong as the first handful, Factory Showroom is a grower, and has emerged as one of TMBG’s sleepers. Hell, it took us a while to get it, and we’re glad we did. (It’s since been re-allocated to a rarities collection, but the original pressing of the CD included the amusing “Token Back To Brooklyn” in the form of a pre-gap bonus track, which you had to rewind to at the start of the disc to hear.)

They Might Be Giants Factory Showroom (1996)—3

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