If it wasn't for disappointment... you know the rest.
Ryan Hennessy | Albany, NY | 06/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this CD right as my TMBG obsession started getting into full swing. It must've been 1996 right after I got a CD player that I got Lincoln soon after the Big Blue Dog. Having much in common with the first song, it's another huge pile of inspired lunacy. What makes Lincoln so much better than the debut album is that the song are more polished and it basically sounds like more time was spent on the production. For trivia's sake, the first album was produced in a studio largely after midnight after it closed because the two Johns of TMBG knew a guy who worked there. It saved them a lot of money, but they had to work while on a lot of coffee, and at any given time one of the Johns or the producer Bill Krauss would usually be sleeping on the couch.On Lincoln, Linnell and Flansburgh seem to have a lot more time on their hands to perfect things. This album actually made them the best-selling independent band ever since they resided on the Bar-None label. The album starts with its high-point, "Ana Ng." The premise is way out there: A man laments because he thinks that his true love resides on the exact opposite side of the earth from him and that she just missed her one day at the 1964 World's Fair. The point is made clear though. Everyone has their match, but some never find theirs. Everything that makes John Linnell my favorite songwriter comes together in the verse "They don't need me here and I know you're there / Where the world goes by like the humid air / And it sticks like a broken record / Everything sticks like a broken record." This is definitely one of my favorite songs ever."Ana Ng" is actually so great that it casts a shadow over the rest of the album even though the rest of the album is great. "Cowtown" follows as a sort of slap-happy pointless excursion with clarinets, a glockenspiel and a steam whistle. I could get into all of instruments on this album, almost all played just by the two Johns, but let's just say everything but the kitchen sink is on here. And here's another piece of dork trivia for you: In "Cowtown," the line "The yellow Roosevelt Avenue leaf overturned" makes no sense unless you split it up and hear that phonetically Flansburgh is saying "The yellow rose," "Roosevelt avenue," and "A new leaf overturned." This is just the beginning of hoops you have to jump through sometimes to make sense of the lyrics. Almost the entire song "Purple Toupee" seems to make no sense on the surface until you get into and realize that nearly every line is a reference to something that happened in the 60's. "I remember the book depository where they crowned the king of Cuba" = Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy from the bok depository, and all of the biggest events of JFK's political life involved Cuba, hence he's the king of it. This is the 60's as remembered by a child, mixing up names and events. I did a report on this song in high school and there's more to it than you'd want to read in a record review.For the most part, the rest of the CD follows this kind of suits. There's lots of playful dorky lyrics and off-kilter, weird, catchy music. Of course there's the occasional witty love song ("I've Got A Match," "They'll Need A Crane," "Santa's Beard"). And then there's a weird trilogy of short interestingly arranged songs with weird imagery that begin with S - "Shoehorn With Teeth," "Stand On Your Own Head," and "Snowball In Hell." The disc finishes with "Kiss Me, Son of God," a delicate derailment of monarchies which features a nice strings arrangement with The Ordinaires. With Lincoln, They Might Be Giants set the bar by which all geek rock from then on should be measured."
Listen carefully...there's more here than you think.
Ryan Hennessy | 11/21/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, let me say that I think that this is one of the pinnacles of American recorded music. And I'm not just saying that because I, like John and John, am a Massachusetts-to-Brooklyn transplant. It's completely accessible, fun, eclectic, weird and intelligent. What gets me the most, though, is the darkness of the lyrics. That's right, the DARKNESS. It's interesting to read people's comments about how meaningless (although fun) TMBG's music is. Listen carefully. "Kiss Me Son of God" is an amazingly concise and effective skewering of religion. "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" is a dead-on depiction of paranoia. "Lie Still Little Bottle" is about drug dependency. And "They'll Need a Crane" is, I think, the saddest song that I have ever heard. The way that J&J bury the line "...and I don't love you anymore..." in the middle of the phonecallers' harangue to his girlfriend just tears my heart out. Moments like this pass almost unnoticed and that slyness is what distinguishes TMBG from other bands that use humor but lack the depth, yes, the DEPTH of this incredible band."
John Linnell's turn to shine...
Gena Chereck | Nebraska, USA | 01/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After he ceded the spotlight to They Might Be Giants bandmate/co-founder John Flansburgh on their eclectic self-titled 1986 debut, Linnell comes into his own on this more polished and focused 1988 followup, Lincoln (as in Massechusetts, not Nebraska!). His nasal twang may not be as versatile as Flansy's slightly less-nasal voice, but it's more distinctive; Linnell's contributions to this disc -- generally more consistent than those of his partner -- are insanely catchy, exquisitely crafted pop-rock gems. "Ana Ng" is a moving tale of unrequited love that rocks like crazy; "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" is a disturbingly catchy ode to paranoia. The anthemic "Purple Toupee" is about how a fellow born in 1959 or '60 tries to interpret the major events of the '60s, with humorous and irreverent results. The gentle "I've Got a Match" ("...your embrace and my collapse") is a vaguely dark song about falling out of love; the rollicking "They'll Need a Crane," in its depiction of an unhappy couple beyond hope or help, uses the poignant imagery of a home literally being torn down. He even comes up with an inspired guilty pleasure in "Pencil Rain" (think war imagery with refs to "lead," "splintered wood," and "number two"). The best of the lot is "Kiss Me, Son of God," a lovely pop ballad taking aim at religious cults and the corruption that comes with any position of power ("I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage called the blood of the exploited working class / But they've overcome their shyness, now they're calling me 'Your Highness'"); the sparse instrumentation and Flansburgh's harmonies bring an undercurrent of melancholy to Linnell's biting wit and acerbic lead vocal.That's not to say that Flansburgh doesn't have his moments here. "Snowball in Hell" is a bouncy working-stiff's lament featuring the classic line, "If it wasn't for disappointment, I wouldn't have any appointments." He ventures into jazz with "Lie Still, Little Bottle," a surreal meditation on drug addiction; on the Latin-pop shuffle "The World's Address," he waxes disillusioned after being betrayed by a lover. The New Wave-y "Santa's Beard" ranks with the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" and the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" as one of the best pop holiday tunes about troubled relationships. The folkish "Cowtown" doesn't make much sense (something about visiting a cow beneath the sea?), but it sounds wonderful; and "Piece of Dirt" is a sparse, elegantly crooned pop ode to isolation, loneliness and self-loathing ("I find myself haunted by a spooky man named me / I wish that I could jump out of my skin"). (I must also mention "Shoehorn With Teeth," his twee, nonsensical duet with Linnell featuring the priceless lyric, "What's the sense in ever thinking about the tomb when you're much too busy returning to the womb?").Heavy themes aside, TMBG arm themselves with enough bright pop hooks to keep this disc from becoming one big bummer. I'm also pleased to say that the filler quotient is quite low. Linnell's "Mr. Me" and "Stand on Your Own Head" are just too lightweight compared with the surrounding material, as is Flansburgh's "Cage and Aquarium;" and I am especially disappointed in Flansy's "You'll Miss Me," which wastes some terrific lyrics ("Your money talks but my genius walks ... It must be raining because a man ain't supposed to cry, but I look up and I don't see a cloud") on a gratuitously jokey performance. Otherwise, both Johns have done a great job!"
Easily TMBG's best
Gena Chereck | 05/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is, in my humble opinion, the best thing They Might Be Giants ever did -- and that's really saying something, because they've made several excellent albums. It's a typical TMBG disc in that it's funny, catchy, twisted, and like nothing else you've ever heard. "Ana Ng" is an absolute classic. "Purple Toupee" is probably the catchiest song I've ever heard, and would blow Mariah Carey right off the charts in a perfect world. John and John have the uncanny ability to make music that is completely insane, yet curiously accessible. If you want the perfect TMBG introduction, get "Lincoln." And then do yourself a favor: get the rest of them, too."
B. Vogelgesang | 06/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't usually bother to review things I've bought on Amazon, but when I saw that all of the negative reviews here complain about this album being needlessly weird or absurd, I felt compelled to answer those claims.
Lincoln is, for most of the album, a long series of riddles. Those who write off "Purple Toupee," "Ana Ng," and others as being nonsense are not listening closely enough. Most of these songs are tangled strings of wordplay and symbolism. Although it may take you months, even years to dig down to a logical meaning in some of the lyrics, that moment of insight is well worth the trouble.
When I first heard this album, I was also annoyed by what I thought was needless absurdity in the lyrics. At the time, non sequitors annoyed me enough to write off any artist immediately. Then I noticed that the lyric "spawning of the cage and aquarium" sounds a lot like "dawning of the age of aquarius," and from there the epiphanies (and they do feel like epiphanies) came pouring in.
Buy this album, and for god's sake, really listen to the words before deciding to hate it. This is the most complicated and lyrically rich album They have made yet, and the instruments certainly don't disappoint. Their voices may annoy you, but I promise you'll come to tolerate them, and maybe someday even appreciate them for their uniqueness. A little knowledge of American history and pop culture helps, but even without such knowledge, They will reward you for your attention."