They Might Be Giants make their Barsuk debut with the Indestructible Object EP, which finds John Linnell and John Flansburgh sounding more mature than they have in years (and certainly more so than they did on their excellent children's album No!). They won't be mistaken for Radiohead anytime soon, but the Johns' famed quirkiness is dialed down a bit without sacrificing their essential playfulness. Indestructible Object begins and ends with its subtlest songs. "Am I Awake?" -- which is also the theme song for TLC's reality show about doctors, Resident Life -- is especially impressive, a mix of brisk synth pop and surreal lyrics ("What time is it? Is it that time again? Wasn't it already then?") that takes loops and loopy paranoia -- not to mention They Might Be Giants' sound -- in unique directions. The wittily named "Memo to Human Resources" is nearly as good, a jangly tale about a sad sack who may or may not be getting ready to end it all by jumping (complete with a countdown in the background). And while the version of "Caroline, No" that closes the EP can't compare with the Beach Boys' original, few things can, and Flansburgh's vocals, backed by brass and accordion, have a sweet vulnerability that serves the song well. Indestructible Object's remaining songs aren't so much weaker than the other songs as they are more predictable -- for They Might Be Giants, that is. "Au Contraire" culminates with Jodie Foster, Bach, and Gandhi playing poker, and "Ant" is a parable about how sleeping on your problems turns them from little ones into big ones. As witty and well crafted as these tracks are, the subtler songs on Indestructible Object are, paradoxically, more exciting and entertaining. Regardless, the EP is still another fine offering from one of alternative rock's most venerable, and consistent, acts.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
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