Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review - They Might Be Giants - Holidayland

Ah, the many joys and images of the Christmas season. Snowflakes falling gently to the ground, Santa Claus luring away your wife, snowmen in protective rubber skin. Fans of the quintessential pop duo known as They Might Be Giants have long been familiar with such unorthodox holiday imagery but now these disturbing scenes are available in one convenient, festive package known as Holidayland. The earliest track on this collection is "Santa's Beard", from their infamous Lincoln album. Flansburgh sings "I saw my baby wearing Santa's beard / She kissed him once and whispered in his ear" to a stripped down and ratty guitar paired with a pogo-stick bass beat. Also by Flansburgh is "Careless Santa", originally released by his side band Mono Puff. Before now, "O Tannenbaum" was only available as a special 7" vinyl single from the They Might Be Giants fan club but now it has been converted to a bunch of shiny, laser-encoded pits for your listening pleasure. With J.D. Feinberg utilizing brushes on the drum kit, Linnel sings a drunken jazz version of this famous melody in the original German. Another rarity is the original "Feast of Lights", previously released on a compilation album. The song is played mainly on a harpsichord with the occasional percussion flourish, giving it a spooky, subdued feel. Recorded specifically for this project is a cover of "Santa Claus", written by the legendary 60s band The Sonics. The Giants give this tough, bluesy song a spin in their power-pop blender, creating a delicious holiday beverage. The only Christmas missing from the TMBG catalog is the B-side of the "O Tannenbaum" record, a humorous off-the-cuff ditty called "Christmas Cards" where the singer explains why you won't be getting a Christmas card from him this year: they all seem to get stolen before he can mail them, right out of his desk. But they didn't ask me. They never ask me and to tell you the truth, I'm getting a bit tired of them not asking my opinion. Clocking in a just under twelve minutes, this EP would make a great stocking stuffer.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, December 2001.

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