Ecletic mix makes Mink Car hard to classify
By TOM O'CONNELL
Scene Music Critic
There's something simultaneously amusing and frustrating about They Might Be Giants' latest release, Mink Car. Combining widely eclectic musical styles with their signature droll sense of humor, Mink Car makes it even harder to accurately classify this band.
Cleaner and more wholesome than The Bloodhound Gang, dryer and more funny than Barenaked Ladies, fans simply just can't tell if They Might Be Giants are rock stars or comedians. Mink Car is an ambitious effort from primary band members John Flansburgh and John Linnell that sweeps from hard-rock to techno to acoustic folk to '70s lounge music in just 46 minutes.
"Bangs," a wry tribute to a hairdo, starts the album off with a smirk. Strong numbers like "Hopeless Bleak Despair" and "Older" try hard to offset more disposable songs such as "Yeh Yeh" and "My Man." "I've Got a Fang" starts out well with a great guitar riff, but the lyrics are neither funny nor catchy.
Still, there are quite a few tracks on Mink Car that make the album worthwhile.
A simple and sweet melody makes "Another First Kiss" the best song on the record. It is a poignant love song about a couple that is almost sick of each other — but does not yet want to admit it.
"Hovering Sombrero" is by far the strangest song on the album. A quiet, nostalgic little tune, this song provides little explanation to the listener, but plenty to the sombrero. The singer is actually addressing the hat that floats outside his window, giving it sound advice on how to live life: "When you take yourself for granted/ Feel rejected or unwanted/ Know you're never just a hat/ You're never only just a hat, you know." Sure it's strange, but to understand They Might Be Giants, you first have to accept quirks like this.
The eyebrow-raising title track, "Mink Car" sounds like a song you would have heard Burt Bacharach crooning in a Vegas lounge in the late 1970s.
Of course, it would be futile to expect this album to top TMBG's 1990 album Flood, because so little could. This album must be judged on its own.
And in the end, Mink Car attempts slightly more than it can deliver. In trying to span over so many styles, the album almost spreads itself too thin. It may take some time to digest, but in the end, Mink Car's funny, good-natured attitude will win you over.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, September 25, 2001