They Might Be Giants' John Linnell Rates a Bunch of New Records

Unknown source, 1996
The Cardigans
"Lovefool" (Mercury)

The thing about this record is that I really like the production on it, but it's hard for me to get over the words. I guess the lyrics don't speak to me. The Cardigans are a great-sounding band. I think they have a super-original sound, and that's great. I really like the guitar thing. I love the arrangements on the record, and she's got a great voice. She's also--not to say that everything's down to a certain philosophy of music--but I think that she really sings, and then there's another kind of singing that's popular where somebody sounds like they're not really trying and it's kind of a pose. The thing about this band is they actually are doing music and not being coy about it, so that's good.

Flying Saucer Attack
"Sally Free and Easy" (Drag City)

There's some construction going on in the other room, and it's blending in effortlessly with the music of Flying Saucer Attack. Do these guys perform in public? It's one of those things where it's difficult to imagine. I think that this music is trying to reach a part of me that I can't locate. Some special inner 19-year-old that's not awake inside me.

"Talk To Me" (TriStar)

I have a funny feeling that the demo for this song is probably better than this version. It reminds me of a lot of other stuff; I feel like the things it reminds me of were nice because they were more rough and spontaneous sounding, and this sounds more worked out. It reminds me of a lot of stuff that comes after the Pixies, basically.

"Pure" (Interscope)

One thing that's appealing about these guys is that they're much less fussy than a lot of other bands. They have a more functional idea of what they're doing and that's good. It's not my most favoritest thing, this type of thing. In fact I really have a problem with loud music now that I'm old. I really can't go see even a medium-volume band without wearing earplugs.

JC Hopkins
"Athens by Night" (Shell/Stickshift)

One thing that strikes me right away is that there's so many guitars receding off into the distance that you can't tell how many there are. I like the fact that it's in a song; in other words, it has an A section and a B section, and they're both very strong melodically. I really like melody, and that's a good aspect of this song.

Ice Cube
"The World Is Mine" (Jive)

I like the way Ice Cube raps. It just seems kind of unprocessed. He's a pretty straightforward rapper. Do you think he's called Ice Cube because his head is sort of shaped like a cube? I associate the name Ice Cube with a cube shape. I don't know if that's right, it's probably wrong. I'm not really hearing the words too well, but it's sort of like in that mode-it's not all fussed up with elaborate hip references, musically I mean. He's good.

Mack 10 and tha Dogg Pound
"Nothin' but the Cavi Hit" (Priority)

I like the production. I'm not steeped in contemporary rap, but I feel there's a general thing going on now which is about clarity, everything's really superspare, and that's part of the power of it. I can't really hear what the guy's saying. There's references to things, and I don't know what they are. This is a very good, very worked-through kind of thing.

"Fun for Me" (Echo)

I don't know if bands do this thinking specifically of the original thing, but it really reminds me of Parliament/Funkadelic on the production. The thing that makes this original sounding is that the vocal is kind of its own animal. In other ways, it just seems derivative of the usual stuff.

"Mari in Love" (Casual Tonalities)

The tenor of the whole thing makes me think these guys have not forgotten that show business is the business of show. This is probably very entertaining music to go out to see because they're really trying to keep all the balls in the air. I like this. Often there's something automatically interesting to me about Japanese pop music, but this seems a cut above the usual stuff.

"Electrolite" (Warner Bros.)

There's been this predictable disappointing R.E.M. stuff coming out for a long time. The thing about R.E.M. that I like is that they occasionally do have these surprising, oddball things. That was what made them a good band in the '80s, but this isn't one of those. I'm not getting the feeling that the phone has rung and their muse is on the other line.