Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
They Might Be Giants member John Flansburgh is a bit less smart-alecky than usual on this side-project, but other than that it isn't a huge departure from his usual approach. Unsupervised is an enjoyably scattershot hodgep... more »
They Might Be Giants member John Flansburgh is a bit less smart-alecky than usual on this side-project, but other than that it isn't a huge departure from his usual approach. Unsupervised is an enjoyably scattershot hodgepodge of styles, encompassing a biker instrumental ("Guitar Was the Case"), space-pop esoterica ("Distant Antenna"), loping balladry ("So Long, Mockingbird"), reckless novelty ("Careless Santa") and reconfigured glam ("Hello Hello"), plus tongue-in-cheek tributes to Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee ("What Bothers the Spaceman" and a dead president ("Nixon's the One"). Flansburgh also demonstrates his song-plugging savvy by putting a power-pop spin on Amy Rigby's torch-country classic-to-be "Don't Break the Heart." --Scott Schinder
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Sweet Flansy flies solo, with a little help from his friends
Gena Chereck | Nebraska, USA | 06/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John Flansburgh, the chubby, bespectacled, baby-faced, left-handed, sweet-voiced, guitar-playing half of the alternative-pop duo They Might Be Giants, was a very busy man in the first half of the 1990s. In addition to his TMBG duties, his side projects included directing music videos, running the Hello CD of the Month Club, and Mono Puff -- a newly formed power trio featuring himself on guitar and lead vocals, Steve Calhoon of Skeleton Key on drums, and veteran bass-player Hal Cragin. Their first full-length album, Unsupervised (1996), is as eclectic as anything Flansy has done with TMBG, only less smart-alecky and more spontaneous. Though it lacks the consistency and cohesion of TMBG's excellent Factory Showroom (released later the same year), there's plenty of nice stuff here.The disc -- a dose of pure sunshine for those who thought Flansy was underused on TMBG's John Henry (1994) -- begins strongly enough with the instrumental "Guitar Was the Case," a surf-guitar duel between himself and Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers. The semi-autobiographical rocker "Unsupervised, I Hit My Head" is flat-out wonderful, with hilariously self-pitying/self-deprecating lyrics like "Back in the day with my friends 'round me, you could count on me with just one hand" and "I could just cut myself right out my will;" Flansburgh wisely keeps the most personal details of his story to himself, making it easier for us to identify with its general themes of memory, distraction, growing up and screwing up. He sounds terrific on the torchy ballad "So Long, Mockingbird," and his sparse lyrics are quite affecting. With the snappy "Careless Santa," the writer of TMBG's classic "Santa's Beard" (from 1988's Lincoln) offers another holiday tune about a guy who does reprehensible things in a Santa Claus suit; this time, instead of hitting on the narrator's wife, "Santa" steals a bag of money for the narrator, injures him, and pins the crime on him. "What Bothers the Spaceman" is a funky, funny ode to baseball legend Bill "Spaceman" Lee. The minute-long pop confection "Nixon's the One," which takes on our 37th President, could be interpreted as praise or damnation ("When they look back and weigh everything he's done, they will realize: Nixon's the one"). The touching and lovely country-style ballad "Don't I Have the Right?" (in which Flansburgh writes convincingly from a woman's perspective) is brought off beautifully by the Anne Murray-like vocal of guest Nancy Lynn Howell -- she actually sounds like a confused woman who can't get over the fact that she stuck by her man despite his many faults and yet HE rejected HER, and who also doesn't seem to realize that it's herself, and not him, who's keeping her from moving on. Of course, for a guy who first started writing because he didn't know how to play other people's material, Flansy certainly has a way with cover songs. The jangly "Don't Break the Heart," a wry alt-country love song by Amy Rigby, features what is quite possibly his sweetest performance. The whole band sounds great on the goofy, hard-rocking "Devil Went Down to Newport" (about a surfing contest between God and Satan). On "Hello Hello" (originally recorded by glam-rocker Gary Glitter), the contrast between the band's intensity and Flansy's restrained voice gives the lyrics a more sinister, ominous feel. "Dr. Kildare" is a cover of a ska instrumental, but it also features a few silly, seemingly tossed-off lyrics by Flansburgh. Despite some experimental moments -- "To Serve Mankind," an instrumental track featuring human voices being played on a Melotron, and "Distant Antenna," a funky instrumental featuring real records scratching along, live radios being tuned, and a kooky voice-over by Romanian actress Elina Lowensohn -- it becomes clear on this album that Flansy generally favors conventional pop and rock grooves and emotionally direct lyrics. To SOME fans of They Might Be Giants, this may appear to be a lack of talent on his part. Flansburgh and TMBG bandmate John Linnell share similar sensibilities and attitudes about music, but Linnell's approach seems more overtly eccentric (and thus more in keeping with TMBG's "quirky" image); Flansy has more in common with fellow troubadours Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Marshall Crenshaw, and Jonathan Richman, who also work within traditional forms of popular music while giving their lyrics an idiosyncratic touch."
Mono Puff delivers an eclectic mix.
Johnny Heering | 04/27/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most people know Mono Puff only as John (They Might Be Giants) Flansburgh's side project. But if you expect the TMBG sound on this album you will be in for a surprise. After the surf-rock of the opening track, you get the only TMBG-like song on the CD, Unsupervised (I hit my head). The rest of the CD careens wildly from country-rock to electronic groove to trash rock and all points in between. Its a musical roller coaster ride and if you sit back and enjoy the ride you will like where it takes you. I was fortunate enough to catch Mono Puff live recently and I am expecting great things from the next CD."
"It was totally rockin'!"
Morgan Phillips | Savannah, GA United States | 07/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For the most part, Mono Puff is a groovier, funkier They Might Be Giants. This album is a lot of fun- definitely something to take on a car trip with you. The only downside of the whole thing is that sometimes the album just sounds like rehashed TMBG- which, at least, isn't plagarism considering the band is led by one-half of TMBG. Still, you feel like it could have been more than this with pointless tracks like "Distant Antenna" and "Nixon's the One". Flansburgh quickly redeems himself with fantastic songs like "Unsupervised", "Hello, Hello" and the touching "Don't I Have the Right?". This is a really fun album and I think you ought to pick it up- it's totally worth it.
1. Guitar Was the Case- 4/5
2. Unsupervised, I Hit My Head- 5/5 (#1 song of the album)
3. Don't Break the Heart- 4/5
4. Distant Antenna- 2/5
5. Devil Went Down to Newport (Totally Rocking)- 3/5
6. What Bothers the Spaceman- 3/5
7. Hello, Hello- 5/5
8. Dr. Kildare- 4/5
9. So Long, Mockingbird- 3/5
10. Careless Santa- 4/5
11. Don't I Have the Right?- 5/5
12. To Serve Mankind- 4/5
13. Nixon's the One- 3/5