For many of us, the release of a new album from the masters of nerd, They Might Be Giants, is an occasion to look forward to with the greatest of expectations. And Nanobots, their 16th studio album doesn’t disappoint. Catchy hooks, surreal lyrics, and challenging ideas: the 25 tracks on Nanobots have everything fans have come to expect from the band over the years. Of course, we have already had a taste of three of the tunes to whet our appetites on a previously released EP (also called Nanobots), and just listening to the James Bond intro to “Black Ops” did that in spades. Still, there’s nothing like the opportunity to feast on the whole album.
By the way, “Black Ops” was one of the first songs I heard after I downloaded the TMBG iPhone app, a truly nice way to listen to an ever-changing menu of the band’s songs (and the price is right). It holds up to five songs from the whole of the TMBG canon, and a new one is shuttled in every day. The app also connects you directly to TMBG’s social media and iTunes page if you want to purchase a song. As I write, the songs featured are “They’ll Need a Crane,” “No!,” ”Spine,” “Mink Car,” and “Am I Awake?”
While the 25 tracks on the album include a number of mini-moments that harken back to the “Fingertips” suite on Apollo 18, which might strike some listeners as self-indulgent scraps better held back in favor of more substantial works, there are more than enough fully realized pieces to make up for them. Besides, one could argue that in the context of the whole album, the six-second track plays a significant role (embryonic DNA of songs to be, palate cleansers, for example), but I must confess that until I have the opportunity to hear the whole album a few more times, I would be hard put to explain what that significance is.
On the other hand, songs like “You’re On Fire,” “Call You Mom,” “Lost My Mind,” “Tesla,” and even the oddly titled “Circular Karate Chop” are vintage TMBG. They are everything we’ve come to value in the band’s music—quirky lyrics set in melodies you can't get out of your head. After 15 earlier studio albums, Nanobots makes it clear that John Flansburgh and John Linnell have developed a musical aesthetic that doesn’t grow old.
The whole album is available for streaming on Rolling Stone. Surf on over and give it a listen.