OK, OK, so I'm biased. I have been a sad fan of They Might Be Giants for nearly 15 years, ever since they enjoyed UK chart success with the clever Birdhouse In Your Soul. I own all their albums (including the hard-to-get Don't Let's Start b-side compilation), and have seen them live on four (soon to be five) occasions. The temptation, therefore, to award this album five stars, for the sole reason that it's simply Them, is overwhelming; however, I am going to put my allegiances aside, be objective and give this album, well, OK, four stars.
It's good, it's very good, but it's not as good as their previous albums (Lincoln, for example, and their eponymous debut, are classics; and even 2001's Mink Car, which was disliked by a significant percentage of the Giants' fanbase, was excellent).
Please don't get me wrong, The Spine has its moments: Au Contraire, the jolly-polka of Stalk Of Wheat, the typically-Linnell Wearing A Raincoat, and the Radio 2-playlisted Experimental Film. But there's just something lacking, something that I can't quite pin down. Maybe it's because the album, just over an episode of EastEnders long, seems too short; granted, some of their earlier LPs were short, but they seemed to have more fun and ideas crammed into their 30 or 40 minutes.
If you own, and have enjoyed, some of TMBG's earlier efforts, then you won't be dissapointed; but if you've just heard some of their stuff on the radio, and want to discover what they're albums are like, then it might be worth trying another from their extensive back catalogue (or even going to see one of their upcoming UK live shows, as they are - beyond the merest shadow of a doubt - one of the best live acts you will ever see).