The last 10 years have been a bit frustrating for the more casual fans of They Might Be Giants. With three children’s albums, another family-friendly release, and contributions to a number of Disney soundtracks, die-hard fans of the band (and their children) have seen a steady flow of all-ages material from the cult act, while the few grownup-oriented releases sprinkled through that span have been overshadowed, and a bit underwhelming. If you’re a fan who’s afraid you’ve lost the band to the kiddie crowd, fear not. Join Us is a return to their quirky geek-rock roots.
“All of the dicks in this dick town can’t keep Johnny down,” They Might Be Giants sing in the album’s opener, planting their feet firmly in welcome PG-rated territory. “Cloisonné” is TMBG at their most endearingly weird, lyrically chronicling a conversation with a talking raindrop. Many songs here fall into the smart, often humorous college rock spectrum of the duo’s past output. For example, “Never Knew Love” is a wistful piece of pop that could fit in amongst songs in the band’s classic Lincon/Flood era.
They Might Be Giants save their quirkiest material for the latter moments on the album. “Do you surmise it’s wise to have laser beams emitting from your eyes?” they ask, in the horn-packed “The Lady and the Tiger”. Later on, “Dog Walker” features vocals at altered pitches, and some electronic experimentation on the instrumental side, while “2082” details a murder in the far future.
Join Us is a throwback to the style of music They Might Be Giants built the first two decades of their career around. At long last, the duo has returned to making geeky adult music for geeky adults.