Back to Skull was released four weeks before John Henry, They Might Be Giants' true full-band debut. Surprising, then, that the tracks on this EP so closely resemble TMBG from years past. "Snail Shell" is an excellent choice for a first album single, if for no reason other than the fact that it's so uncharacteristic for the band. Taking a line from a Sly and the Family Stone song and perverting it to mean just the opposite of its original intention, "Snail Shell" showcases the funky, swingin' new They Might Be Giants. The following track, "Ondine," loosely follows suit, with John Flansburgh issuing the amusing refrain "Don't make me kill you again." Is it Andy Warhol's actor Ondine? The fetish pinup model? Listeners are ultimately not to know, and the song's over after two and a half minutes anyhow. "She Was a Hotel Detective" and "Mrs. Train" are more familiar-sounding songs, with John and John relying more on drum machines and synthesizers than amped-up guitars. The former shares its title with the 1986 TMBG single, but little else. It's a pseudo-disco retooling, with John Linnell squeaking out an appropriately tasteless falsetto. "Mrs. Train" uses its own onomatopoeic value to carry the song. Track five is the Dust Brothers mix of "Snail Shell." A persistent club beat and repetitive organ riff replace the original instrumentation to decent effect. Back to Skull won't surprise fans of They Might Be Giants, especially those who are familiar with their post-1994 work, and in this case, that's not a bad thing by far.
AllMusic Review by Christian Huey