1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 290

Lincoln, by They Might Be Giants
Suggested by Matt Smith

Today, you’ll be getting a Brucie Bonus: an extra half-review!

It won’t pad the word count. I’m not a monster. But I can’t discuss Lincoln by They Might Be Giants without discussing their follow-up album, Flood.

Flood is on the Masterlist, yet to be randomised. And Flood is… SPOILERS … one of my favourite albums. It was introduced to me on release, at the tender age of sixteen, by either a school friend who’s now an actual rock star or a school friend who’s now an actual paedophile.

I love, everything about Flood, from the omnipresent Birdhouse in your Soul to the final blinder Road Movie to Berlin. It’s They Might Be Giants at their eclectic and wacky best, full of wit, charm and irreverence.

But it’s also the only album of theirs I’ve felt the need to own.

They Might Be Giants have spawned an impressive twenty-two albums of alternative rock whimsy, with a twenty-third slated for a 2021 release. So why have I never felt particularly pressed to investigate more?

I fell for Flood quickly, but I was also Metalling around that time, and that dedication took a lot of my musical energies. Plus, in 1990 there weren’t twenty-two albums to investigate. There were three. The songs on Flood represented my dose of familiar wackiness, and once I listened, I was sated.

The band consists of a pair of multi-instrumentalists who both play and sing and write the songs, and they concentrate on minimalistic and intricate arrangements over which they apply a rather nasal vocal containing quirky lyrics. They’re knowingly obtuse at times, surreal, experimental and absurd, but they’re never short of engaging and will constantly surprise.

Any thought I have on Lincoln are formed against a comparison to Flood. It seems unfair, pitching this album against something with which I have a storied history, and this immediate unfamiliarity does the band no favours. In the sub-forty minutes of running time, the band deliver eighteen tiny, tidy songs, each one a self-contained idea with one central notion. For one minute, or two minutes, each song does one thing, and nothing more. This is not a sumptuous sweet trolley overladen with exotic dishes and delicious flavours. This is a pack of Fruit Pastilles.

My favourite song is likely the first, Ana Ng, a choppy guitar-based track with a fun skipping chorus. Honourable mentions go to Cowtown for the obvious dairy connection, the festive Santa’s Beard, and the windy Shoehorn with Teeth, but on the whole I find it all rather simplistic. While there’s a lot of Flood in here, it feels unfinished and unformed. I’m also reminded of Parry Grip, the album of children’s hits, which I’m sure is somewhat by design; five of the band’s twenty-two albums were released specifically for children.

I give Lincoln 5/10. If I’d heard this some thirty years ago, I’d have embraced it as readily as Flood, but it doesn’t impress on a singular listen today. This album, and likely the rest of band’s output, are the definition of a slow burn, with further listens required to fully value. While it didn’t knock my socks off, I appreciate its place on the journey to an album I truly adore.

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