An early indie album, They Might Be Giants' debut was part of the same splatter of invention, disciplined by a feeling for ideas running their natural distance and no more (three minutes good, 30 seconds better), which produced Flood and the hit "Birdhouse in Your Soul."It's a maze of all-American surrealism and absurdist satire, coated with cunning pop-like sugar on a pill of uncertain chemical composition. Some songs are just daft jokes: the trick of "Number 3" is that "There are just two songs in me and I just wrote the third", while "32 Footsteps" worries about things coming in 32s (which they don't, of course). However, "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" bops out shrewd sociology. A factory closes: it's sad, but the bitter moment creates a romantic dream of the good old days when the place had probably been a hellhole. Though some may choke on the Giants' self-consciously nerdy pose, a group who can achieve feats of compression like that while retaining their light touch are crafts persons to be reckoned with. ***

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