Being a latter-day TMBG fan is a frustrating experience. I know they are still capable of writing and releasing great songs, but the last decade has been so full of lacklustre-to-inconsistent albums it makes me almost dread forthcoming records. Some of their better work in this period has appeared in podcasts and on their children's albums, or on contemporaneous albums like 'Cast Your Pod to the Wind' where they could really break loose and raise their freak flag. So it was with fairly low expectations that I listened to 'Nanobots'.
It feels like around the time of 'Mink Car', when they were also working on 'No!', the guys' foray into kid's music forced them to make a considered distinction between the songs they considered childish or to be a 'novelty' and the more serious songs they would feature on albums. This heralded a new age of uninspired, uninteresting albums that lacked the imagination, instrumentation, weird arrangements and subject matter of their best, early work. 'Nanobots' isn't exactly a return to these days, but it does shake off some of the song writing and production chains of recent albums.
Highlights include the super- catchy rocker 'You're On Fire,' which features an awesome harmonica break towards the end; the satisfyingly creepy surf-rock pastiche 'Call You Mom,' the electro-hip-hop of 'The Darlings of Lumberland,' which is quite unlike anything else in the TMBG canon; and the jagged power-pop of 'Circular Karate Chop,' which could almost fit with their earlier material, sounding something like a cross between 'Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head' and 'Twisting'. Some people have picked up on the slew of short songs, likening the vibe to 'Fingertips' from 'Apollo 18'. I personally didn't get the sense that they were recycling this concept; many of the short songs are really enjoyable and find their place as part of the album as a whole. The ones that don't - well, they don't outstay their welcome.
Unfortunately, the album sags around the middle with too many insignificant songs that are merely OK. It's also blighted by lyrics that think they're cleverer than they are, and can come off a little cringeworthy. A line like "amputate the thought that says you shouldn't ever amputate a thought" from '9 Secret Steps' is cute, not clever and is almost formulaic at this stage of their career.
There are too many songs that don't quite connect to make this a 5-star album but fair-weather fans should take notice that this is a really good album; really interesting, enjoyable, jam-packed with great melodies and musical ideas and a healthy dose of old-school TMBG instrumentation and weirdness. Get it!
Yes I may be biased (my name is in the artwork as a Super President) but what a fantastic album. Most bands start to get boring as they age but TMBG just keep giving. Some really original tunes here. Highlights for me include 'Call You Mom', 'You're on Fire' and 'Icky'. Some great short tunes as well (think 'Fingertips') but as previous reviewer says sometimes it only takes a short time to get the message accross - in this case about 12 seconds to create an Earworm!!
Being a fan of TMBG for over 20 years, I was a little apprehensive about this album, as I feel a couple of their most recent albums for an adult audience (as opposed to the kids albums they have recorded), have been a bit hit and miss.
However after owning this album for a few month, such fears have been allayed.
Of course there are some throwaway tracks that personally haven't grabbed my attention since I bought it (eg Black Ops), but the best tracks more than make up for this, (Tesla, Nanobots, Call You Mom, Circular Karate Chop).
The band have also interspersed the album with a number of tracks under 60 seconds long, which has been a common theme throughout their career.
Overall, a quite enjoyable album, and I'm looking forward to seeing them on their UK tour in November 2013.
There's no doubt that they ARE giants. Supremely high standards of beguiling melody and sharply wry lyrics are, once again, presented to we eager fans. You have to remind yourself that songwriting this good is rare, such is their consummate artistry. My only gripe is that they don't do a decent-sized tour of the UK so that we can hear them live.
This is the first adult TMBG album I have bought since Mink Car and it is a very good album. The music reminds me of 'John Henry' more than any other as it has a heavier less folky sound than other albums. If you are getting into TMBG I would recomend 'Flood' as the first album to buy followed by Apollo 18.