This weird and wonderful collaboration between guitarist Nick Zammuto and violinist Paul de Jong took many by surprise in 2002. The Books' method is relatively simple: Zammuto and de Jong combine guitar, violin, and the occasional banjo or cello with sounds from their extensive sample libraries. The input seems almost banal, but the music on Thought for Food is anything but. The Books have an uncanny knack for spinning straw into gold, transforming basic instrumental parts into deeply affecting compositions. Particularly noteworthy is their skill in weaving odd snippets into the fabric of the music. Everyone is inured to the "wacky vocal sample" at this stage in the game, but the Books incorporate strange references in an organic manner that feels inevitable but manages to sound new. "Read, Eat, Sleep," for example, combines a slowly plucked acoustic and a bit of vibraphone with a chopped-up recording of a spelling bee, and the tension release that occurs as the random letters assemble themselves in the track's final section is astonishing. "All Bad Ends All" is much punchier, as Zammuto's jaunty guitar strums take on a percussive quality, helping to organize the mishmash of voices that bubbles beneath. "Contempt" incorporates dialog pulled from the Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name; there's an eerie tension cut with bits of humor as two people discuss each other's physical attributes, all set against plucked guitar and violin slowly chiming in waltz time. The tracks are varied and the pacing is exceptional, and by the time this short, unassuming album ends, admirers of experimental indie pop will be smiling.
AllMusic Review by Mark Richardson