For those of you not "in the know" TMBG stands for They Might Be Giants, who just released their 12th album this past Tuesday. Sure, I could have bought it online about a month ago but this band, once cherished at the top of my fanboy list, has lost quite a bit of footing.
It's my theory that TMBG does albums in thematic pairs, perhaps unconsciously but it makes sense in my twisted little mind. The Pink Album and Lincoln were both very heavy on the experimental/Greenwich Village angle - good, slightly underdeveloped, but very enthusiastic. With Flood and Apollo 18 they removed the "underdeveloped" while keeping the enthusiasm and adding loads of guests in the studio to give their keyboardy sound a more organic rock feel. Also while touring for these albums they realized that they needed a band and so went out and bought one. John Henry has TMBG in full rock mode, feeling their oats with this new power behind them and pretty much gleefully flying through loads of great songs. Factory Showroom is also solid and full of rock but with a bit more whimsy.
Then bassist Graham Maby (one of the most inventive bassists on the planet) left and the Giants brought in "The Band of Dans" and started working on soundtracks and stuff, taking a break from studio albums while Linnell worked on his family. With Mink Car, their first album in five years, the band turned in a bunch of lame ducks surrounded by a few inspired tunes... and even those has been previously released on an EP. Three years pass and The Spine comes out and it's little more than a bad caricature of themselves. Eight years is a long time to wait for two mediocre albums. Around this time, however, the band puts out two very good children's albums. And it should be noted that their EPs, with the exception of any Dust Brothers remixes, are always in excellent form.
So we've got two experimentals, two developed, two rock, two stinkies, and two great childrens albums. Their latest, The Else is playing for the second time for my ears so it's too early to tell if it's any good. My fingers are crossed. I'd really hate to demote this much-cherished band from the "buy anything they put out without listening" to "check it out first" status.