Listening to the Giants is sometimes like listening to a maniac raving about aliens invading his breakfast cereal. They often don't make much sense but are fascinating to listen to. Even on this sixth full-length CD from the New York City band, what separates the Giants -- led by co-songwriters and singers John Flansburgh (guitar) and John Linnell (accordion) -- from the lunatic fringe is their immensely appealing gift for pop melodies.
They can make a song extolling the virtues of our 11th President, James K. Polk, sound downright Beatles-esque. There is plenty of requisite wackiness, like the bouncy, addictive "The Bells Are Ringing," in which the pealing chimes hypnotize an entire town, and the aforementioned ode to Polk, which is as catchy as a commercial jingle. What makes this a step forward for the band, though, are surprisingly normal, pleasant tunes, including "Pet Name," a semisweet love song with a minimum of witty wordplay and a maximum of smooth, soulful sounds. Whether it's the result of maturity or lithium, the highly entertaining Factory Showroom indicates that for the Giants, sanity may be settling in. (Elektra)