TMBG are one of my favourite groups and this album epitomises why. This is probably their most famous album, and includes songs such as Birdhouse in your Soul, Istanbul (not Constantinople), and Particle Man. If you are into hear refreshing clean self indulgent music, this is it.
"Person man, person man, hit on head with frying pan. Lives his life in a garbage can. Person man, is he depressed or is he a mess? Does he feel totally worthless? Who came up with person man? Degraded man, person man. Triangle man, triangle man, triangle man hates particle man. They have a fight, triangle wins, triangle man. ---They Might be Giants, Particle Man
The song Particle Man I originally thought was about recycling and that fits (it's interesting why the recycling symbol is a triangle with arrows instead of a circle) but I believe an equally good analogy is to quantum relativity. The triangle could refer to the radioactivity symbol; particles refer to quantum particles; humans are stuck in the middle as the universe ticks on. If the universe's clock and another object's clock synchronise (travelling at speed equal to light), then time should stop moving.
TMBG is like the modern day Devo. Apollo 18 is a great complementary album to Flood and has classics such as I Palindrome I (which I believe is about DNA) and My Evil Twin (could also be about quantum mechanics). TMBG is probably one of the best "mainstream" groups around. Self indulgent music for the masses: they consistently put out excellent material.
"Someday mother will die and I'll get the money. Mom leans down and says, 'My sentiments exactly, you son of a bitch.' I palindrome I And I am a snake head eating the head on the opposite side. See that bulletproof dress hanging from the clothesline. See the medical chart with the random zig-zag. Now I'll help it decide. I palindrome I" ---They Might be Giants, I Palindrome I
One of the coolest "mainstream" groups around. This EP represents their refreshingly clean approach to music.
Many view this in a mixed way: some claim TMBG have become more commercial, and others claim they still maintain the old charm. I think TMBG have actually broken from the Flood/Apollo 18 trend and gone back to their Lincoln beginnings with one major difference---a complete band, instead of two people, performing the tunes. To me, they have always represented a group that parodied mainstream rock 'n' roll and here the prime object of their parody is themselves. Outfitted with a full band (allows them to explore musically) now, they are aware that they are turning into the monster they have always made fun of, and this is clearly obvious in the various messages presented in this album, starting with the album name.
An apocryphal story: John Henry is the name of a person who died after competing with a steam hammer and winning. And TMBG have done exactly this---they've gone from a two-person group using synthesisers and sampling techniques to an assembly-line rock band, killing the old TMBG we know, but yet remaining true to their old roots and producing a rather fine self-parodying album. The audience reaction is anticipated with illustrations of "We Hate They Might be Giants" signs and children carrying skulls with "they" written on it on the album cover.
Most groups tread an arc along the curve that initially rises, plateaus out, and goes down again. TMBG have traversed the curve in a complete manner and are currently in their plateau stage. Musically, this album does not present a radical departure from what they represent but it is just an exploration of plateau space. It is a reasonable continuation of Apollo 18, where the afccordion is diminished and rock is emphasised. With the addition of the band, TMBG ally themselves more closely with other groups that make fun of rock 'n' roll, like Ween or Mr. Bungle. There are distinct elements that are common in all three groups.
Perhaps it is due to the mix, but the vocals sound a bit weak to me. Subliminal, Sleeping in the Flowers, I should be allowed to Think, Extra Savoir-Faire, Why must I be Sad, Spy, No One Knows my Plan, Destination Moon, Window, and Stomp Box are songs that remain true to their old self (even though they are laced with some decent riff-based guitar work) and some have relation to the other groups mentioned above. Snail Shell (funky bass), Aka Driver, are all stereotype rock 'n' roll, and will most likely not be received well by older fans.