Compared to Top 40 artists, They Might Be Giants might be odd, but it has once again delivered on making a quality album. “Nanobots,” the band’s 16th full-length album walks the line between striking a familiar chord with the band’s earlier work and being a unique piece. It’s similar to earlier TMBG albums in that it’s quirky and fun, while it makes a name for itself with a few serious songs and a massive number of tracks.
When 25 songs are crammed into 45 minutes, many will be relatively short. “Nanobots” does not challenge this with six songs less than 20 seconds long. Individually, the tracks work, but the album as a whole does not flow well and is almost disorienting, which is something I felt was more interesting than negative. The band stuck to its roots with liberal use of an electric organ and guitar, all while accompanied with lyrics that don’t seem to elicit meaning, but you’re never quite sure. That’s the magic of “Nanobots” and other TMBG albums – the songs are not required to have some deep meaning. At first glance the songs are fun and entertaining, anything else the songs have to offer is secondary.
The title track speaks toward much of the album’s tone: often clever, catchy and carefree. The song is similar to older songs about the wonders of technology, such as “Particle Man” from the 1990 album “Flood.” The lyrics in the title track talk about societies of nanorobots, and whether it’s a commentary of America’s usage of drones or anything else, I’m not sure. I only know it’s a good song.
From a ballad praising the accomplishments of an inventor, “Tesla,” to a song about a town’s lack of nouns, “Nouns,” TMBG covers the gamut of song topics and types. “Sleep” is perhaps the most unique song of the album with interchanging high and low vocals that allow the song to be noticeably different.
While the record is mainly upbeat, there is a dark side. Songs such as “Black Ops,” which is about a drone operator, which gives a very strong impression that the band was experimenting with a more serious kind of songwriting.
That being said, “Nanobots” is an adventure. TMBG has branded itself as a band that goes against the musical grain and these 25 songs live up to that legacy. If one is looking for an album that is anything but routine, “Nanobots” will not disappoint.