Brothers of Invention

Unknown source, 1988

One Little Indian wanted an American act, and they don't come much more defiantly Stateside than They Might Be Giants. These 18 slices of Americana--none of your 45 second vignettes, this is great value--offer a whole Oscar of mad aphorisms, wry one-liners and deadpan diagnoses, all served up in more musical styles than the last three Tom Waits albums put together.

They Might Be Giants are currently America's favourite indie babies, although this could have more dto do with their engagingly mercurial stage appearances than the legacy of skewiff pioneers such as Frank Zappa, Todd Rundgren and Was (Not Was) to which they undoubtedly aspire.

On this, their second LP, it all comes together in one thrilling multi-faceted manoeuvre. Whether they're waxing jealous at their wife's crush on Santa Claus ("Santa's Beard"), offering self-pitying thoughts on death ("You'll Miss Me"), or just generally contemplating the disintegration of the species ("Piece of Dirt"), TMBG have a gag for every occasion and a tune to crack it to.

There's the Zappafied hoedown of "Cowtown", the bluesy shuffle of "Lie Still, Little Bottle" (which includes the LP's best line "Life is a placebo masquerading as a smile" [sic]) and the Devo-meet-The Housemartins sarcasm of "They'll Need a Crane." You may not feel the inclination to sing along, but you'll kill to hear songs like "Ana Ng" and the intensely moving "Pencil Rain" again. And, like the best comedians, TMBG leave you wondering whether there's a frown behind the grin, or just another, wider grin.

Listen to it in one sitting. Then phone their personal Dial-A-Song service (a new song every day!) and leave a message telling them how brilliant they are. They may tell you their secret. Let's face it, a duo who can put their heads together to write a line like "What's the sense in ever thinking about the tomb/When you're much too busy returning to the womb?" has got to know something we don't.