One of the most interesting aspects of They Might Be Giants fandom has always been analyzing the creative mix between John Flansburgh and John Linnell to pinpoint what each artist brings to the table in crafting the group's albums. Listening to State Songs offers the rare opportunity to observe one Giant alone in his natural habitat, as you view the world strictly through Linnell's eyes in his uniquely absurd take on 16 of the nation's 50 states. As he often does on Giants records, Linnell covers plenty of musical territory on this album, from the grooving, midtempo pop of "Idaho" to the manic polka of "Michigan." He even recruits a carousel band organ to play backup on several of the songs. Shifting gears wildly, he masters every stylistic leap he takes; the tunes are all united by the catchy-as-the-clap melodies. You're guaranteed to be continually amazed by the inventiveness and sheer beauty of his melody lines. Searching for deep meaning in the lyrics will probably only lead to severe migraine headaches, though -- unless you're crazy enough to think that Linnell actually believes "Oregon" is bad or "Iowa" is a witch. Such serious ponderings are better suited for Bob Dylan records. Better to just lean back in your chair and let Linnell's State Songs whiz by your car window in a wild and surreal blur.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Springer