They Might Be Giants- Lincoln
Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders
What the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of
Lincoln is the record that usually gets labeled as ‘stripping away TMBG’s artier tendencies’ and solidifying their place in the alternative mainstream. Rather, it seems they finally shunned the New Wave holdovers in their sound, but this record still walks a lot of brave lines. Under the ostensible veil of cheeky nerd rock filled out with plenty of poppy hooks, the Johns hide plenty of lyrical twists and venomous gems. The mood of the lyrics are often in such contrast to the music, it’s hard to tell which is excusing the other. See the entirety of “Purple Toupee”, the upbeat, dancy, accordion-laced fourth track; an utterly straight-faced first person account of a pseudo-activist cum materialist bigwig. It’s a theme revisited on a few songs, like “Cage and Aquarium”: used to be different, now you’re the same/ yawn as your plane goes down in flames.
The other major trope of Lincoln is relationships, and regardless of how the point of reference is crafted, John Linnell’s meek and nasal delivery gives the air of an underdog to his narrators. “They’ll Need A Crane” is the crowning achievement in this vein. It glances between morose and fatalist, humanizing and undercutting the experience of the heartbroken protagonist at the end of a codependent relationship. This gets revisited on “I’ve Got a Match”: Which one of us is the one that we can’t trust?…I’ve got a match/ Your embrace and my collapse.
Lincoln bleeds expertese in all ways, bares it’s soul, and has fun doing it. The wordplay is fantastic, but they don’t just toy with meaning for the sake of it. Some serious philisophical issues are jabbed at, laughed off, or posed in absurdist ways. It leads to a lot of chuckling, followed some time after by a bit of head-scratching. Fans of the Giants’ later work, say Flood and after, will be shocked to hear how much they changed.
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