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  • Flood
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4.7 out of 5 stars127
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on June 7, 2004
Debate has waged on in the TMBG camp for ages about the quality of this album. One side (the Floodies) maintain that Flood is the best album that TMBG ever did, while the other point out the album's unevenness and make the case for the album being among their worst. The debate is never going to end, of course, but I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
When Flood is good, it's very good. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" deserves mention by itself, a wonderfully beautiful instant classic that proved what the two Johns could do with a major label recording budget. "Dead" is wonderful in its bizareness, "Twisting" takes on the tale of a psychotic ex and her quest to destroy her former loved one, and "We Want a Rock" is a brilliant piece of nonsense, just to note a few of the great tracks scattered across the album.
However, the album also has its downsides. The criminally overrated "Particle Man" is nothing more than nonsensical fluff (despite having nostalgia value for being on Tiny Toons and its instant novelty appeal), "Hearing Aid" is a bad idea that starts nowhere and ends nowhere, and "Your Racist Friend," while somewhat fun, is also overtly preachy.
Flood still rates among their better releases, and that's largely due to the sheer charisma and energy put into the songs. The group had a large budget to work with now, and they were going to use it in any way possible, ending up with a batch of experiments that either failed miserably (the afformentioned "Hearing Aid"), worked wonderfully (the group's sublimely bizarre theme song of sorts, "They Might Be Giants"), or fell somewhere in between ("Letterbox" is at turns interesting and frustrating). This experimentation, however, is key to what makes Flood such a hard album to categorize, even now, and is part of the album's appeal.
Flood might not be as good as the group's first two releases, but it does make a nice introduction to the group along with Apollo 18.
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on January 12, 2003
1990's Flood was They Might Be Giants' third album, their first for a major label, their commercial breakthrough and, frankly, an artistic step backwards; as a whole, it lacks both the musical adventurousness of their 1986 debut and the lyrical depth of 1988's Lincoln. But while I would sooner recommend 2002's Dial-A-Song anthology to the uninitiated, Flood -- easily TMBG's slickest, sunniest and most accessible effort -- is probably the best studio album for beginning fans to start out with before checking out the Johns' deeper, more experimental and more satisfying earlier records.
Seven of Flood's 19 tracks appear on Dial-A-Song, but they actually sound better in their original context. Aside from TMBG's famous cover of "Istanbul," John Linnell's standout tracks "Birdhouse in Your Soul" (a madly catchy pop tune narrated from the viewpoint of a night-light) and "Particle Man" (which is lyrically open to interpretation, but also works as just a fun singalong) both became hits, and deservedly so. John Flansburgh's contributions are lesser-known but equally worthy: The garage-rocker "Twisting" tells the tale of a vindictive ex-girlfriend (and manages to name-drop both the dB's and the Young Fresh Fellows); the giddy "They Might Be Giants" is a sly poke at tabloid journalism; and the best of the lot is the gently catchy and socially conscious "Your Racist Friend," with Linnell's harmonies bringing an undercurrent of edginess to Flansy's plaintive lead vocal. I must also mention the hilarious 43-second instrumental "Minimum Wage"; the way it kicks off with the sung title phrase and the sound of a whipcrack speaks volumes about the plight of the average working stiff.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find even more gems ... Nasal-voiced keyboard/accordion/sax-player Linnell contributes "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" (a wry comment on insensitivity, as "the ugliness men" ignore "Mr. Horrible's" distress and use his politeness as a license to walk all over him), the goofy folk-rockers "We Want a Rock" and "Women and Men," and the loopy reincarnation tale "Dead" ("I came back as a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before the date stamped on myself"). Guitar-player and versatile vocalist Flansburgh contributes the divorce-themed rockabilly rave-up "Lucky Ball and Chain," the short but sweet "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love," and the elegant, mournful "Road Movie to Berlin" ("We were once so close to heaven / Peter came out and gave us medals, declaring us the nicest of the damned"). Even if you already own Dial-A-Song, these more obscure cuts are worth the purchase of Flood.
The remaining tracks are pretty hit-or-miss, though, and you can take them or leave them. Most gratuitous is the opener "Theme From Flood" -- it seems as though the Johns were already trying to make a joke of commercial success. Flansburgh's overlong and sluggish "Hearing Aid" is another working-stiff's lament on the order of "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head" and "Snowball in Hell," minus the hooks and the deeply felt details, and on "Hot Cha" he ruins a promising idea with an annoying performance; also, a lot of people seem to like Linnell's "Letterbox" and "Whistling in the Dark," but I find them rather irritating. However, despite these minor complaints, I still think TMBG newcomers should warm up to Flood's bright pop hooks, goofy charm, and sunny vibe first, and *then* explore the rest of John & John's darker and more challenging body of work.
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on June 5, 2002
OK, this analogy is a bit of a stretch... Like the beer, "Flood" is better than most of the best-selling stuff out there. But being a mixed case (like a sampler pack, for example), you are going to like some of the beer/songs better than the others. Which ones you think are best may vary a lot from one person to the next as a matter of personal taste. But watch out - if you overindulge it will probably make you sick and throw up.
"Flood" shows off TMBG's knack for catchy tunes with off-the-wall wordplay. At best, the songs are a blast to listen to over and over to try to figure out what - if anything - the lyrics are supposed to mean. At worst, some songs sound like whiny commercial jingles that you can't get out of your head.
Some of the best songs are the big hit "Birdhouse" and also "Istanbul" (which, strange as it is, was not written by TMBG - it was a hit in the 50's for the Four Lads!?!?!) The album having its own theme song is a funny idea, but how often do you ever want to hear it again?
Overall, I recommend this disc. If you like "quirky", you can't go wrong with this one.
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on March 30, 2002
Exploring the seemingly eclectic work of They Might Be Giants is always taxing - the first several listens, especially for newcomers, inspire more disgust than endearment - but I've found that it almost always pays off. "Flood" was the first TMBG album I tried, and I hated it for a long time. Even now, the last half of the album gets on my nerves, because the songs themselves are a lot less fun and start to sound either redundant or simply too high concept for their own good. That's the thing with TMBG - they're weird, with their constant fluctuations between rock, wacky sing-song anthems, 1930s swank, and downright freaky hybrids ("Hearing Aid" is impossible to describe), yet in the end, you can pinpoint their style pretty easily. As long as there's an accordion, and John Linnell's nasally, flat-sounding (but not really) voice is spouting off about something that makes absolutely no sense in the context of human knowledge (in "Dead" he sings about being reincarnated as a bag of groceries), you know it's TMBG. They may shift speeds, take turns using a variety of instruments, and defy all predictions at the start of each new track, but there's a familiar glow about them. Both their style and the rhythms of their music are insantly recognizable. Over time I've adapted to "Flood" beyond the few highlights that inspired me to buy it in the first place (the absolutely perfect pop chant "Birdhouse in Your Soul", perhaps their greatest song to date, plus "Istanbul [Not Constantinople]" and "Particle Man", which talks more about the bullying Triangle Man than the title hero, and which features not just a killer musical combination of accordion, tambourine, and handclaps, but also one of TMBG's funniest concepts, that of Person Man. And then, in a rare display of relevance, they actually play on the meaninglessness of his name by descriinge him as a worthless oddity in the world of superheroes). Unfortunately, as often befalls my music ventures, the songs that initially drew me to the album are better than anything else on it. If any song on Flood comes close, though, it'd be the fast-paced, country-flavored "Lucky Ball and Chain". It hooked me a lot quicker than the others. In general, I have no idea the rational significance of ANY of these songs, though there are times when recurring ideas almost build to an actual point. In some cases (i.e. "Istanbul"), the concept is so simple that, thematically-speaking, there's no need for a closer look. But most of the time the lyrics are baffling to the point where you start thinking that maybe they're just being deliberately delirious, like what would happen if you took Lewis Carroll to the 20th century and put a keyboard in his lap (unless someone call actually explain to me who is Mr. Horrible and why does he keep telling the "ugliness men" (????) that someone keeps moving his chair?). If I seem frustrated, it's only because I enjoy them so much that I wish I had a better understanding of their intentions as musicians. Are they conveying their real messages beneath the overtly goofy material? Is TMBG the Paul Verhoeven of music, unwilling to ever reveal their conceit, or the fact that IT IS a conceit, even at the possible expense of making that crucial connection with their audience? Or are they just absurdist craftsmen having fun and going nuts exploring the limitless playing field of music? Probably the one that sounds less pretentious
Flood is one of their best albums, scoring just below Severe Tire Damage (the requisite live album, which has all of their coolest songs, as well as my very favorite - "Dr. Worm"), and just above Apollo 18, Lincoln, and the recent Mink Car. Even if the results are not always rewarding, you gotta admire the ambition of They Might Be Giants, as they hardly ever stick with the same sound more than once. And if you like cheeky, surreal music (think the geeky class-clown charm of "Weird Al" Yankovic if he performed totally random tangents instead of parodies, or the inventive worldplay of Bloodhound Gang sans the vulgarity), or easy-to-swallow pop, or even if you're just looking for something new, then Flood's a gem. It's unlike most anything you've ever heard (besides other TMBG albums), which may not seem that special - anyone can come up with a new sound, at the lowermost level - but these guys have been around for nearly 2 decades, and Flood isn't even their first release. They're masters. And if nothing else, unlike virtually every other musician working for a record label, TMBG never skimp on content. The average size of their albums is about 18 tracks, and keeping in mind that they're also a lot more diverse than most artists, that's enough to guarantee that the casual listener can find at least one decent song on here (and trust me, it'll be either "Birdhouse in Your Soul" or "Particle Man"; the glee I get from hearing these 2 is nearly unparalleled by any other song in existence, but to each his own, and I sense "Whistling in the Dark" is the majority fave from this one)
Lucky Ball and Chain (B+)
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (A-)
Dead (B)
Your Racist Friend (B)
Particle Man (A)
Twisting (B)
We Want a Rock (B)
Someone Keeps Moving My Chair (B-)
Hearing Aid (D)
Minimum Wage (B-)
Letterbox (B-)
Whistling in the Dark (B)
Hot Cha (C)
Women & Men (C+)
Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love (C+)
They Might Be Giants (C+)
Road Movie to Berlin (C)
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on June 24, 2001
This album is notorious for being where TMBG really hit it 'big', so to speak. And it's not hard to see why, with such hits as 'Birdhouse in your Soul' and 'Istanbul (Not Constainople)'. But, really, there's much more to this CD, and quite franky, Istanbul dose not make this CD. (And neither does Particle Man, which *really* gets old after a while, and keeps me from giving this album 5 stars) As for the actual content of the music, it's somewhat of a mix of thier styles of thier first self-titled offering and the deep themes of Lincoln. We have more typical TMBG wackiness (We want a Rock, Someone keeps moving my chair, and the theme song for TMBG) some really clever humor (Dead, Lucky Ball and Chain, Racist Freind... (as for RF...geeze, it seems like I always get in this kind of situation)) and, overall, an easily accessiable sound that seemingly everyone will enjoy. This is THE CD of a TMBG fan, though not thier best. Unless your, well, dead, you'll enjoy this CD.
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on May 13, 2004
This CD is possibly They Might Be Giants' most famous CD. It contains most of their famous songs and radio hits, including Particle Man and Birdhouse In Your Soul.
While it's not TMBG's best, it's a great album. It's also the one TMBG album that I'd say has the least "acquired taste" value, so it's perfect for a new fan.
1. Theme from Flood 3/5
2. Birdhouse in Your Soul 5/5
3. Lucky Ball & Chain 4/5
4. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) 4/5
5. Dead 4/5
6. Your Racist Friend 5/5
7. Particle Man 4/5
8. Twisting 4/5
9. We Want A Rock 4/5
10. Someone Keeps Moving My Chair 3/5
11. Hearing Aid 3/5
12. Minimum Wage 4/5
13. Letterbox 4/5
14. Whistling in the Dark 5/5
15. Hot Cha 3/5
16. Women and Men 4/5
17. Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love 3/5
18. They Might Be Giants 4/5
19. Road Movie to Berlin 3/5
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on January 26, 2000
"Flood" is TMBG's 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' - it's not necesseraly their best and certainly not their most recent, but any fan will tell you it's the 'must-own'. I don't know how many TMBG fans I know who got hooked on these guys instantly and indefinitley after listening to this album for the first time. It's the album you tote around with you for six months forcing family and friends (as well as strangers) to listen to. Many TMBG fans remember their first time; that night at their friend's place when those words - "guys, you gotta hear this CD..." were uttered.
Buy this CD and live the magic.
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on July 14, 2003
The first thing you may notice about "They Might Be Giants", is the funny, strange, and sometimes "Weird Al" lyrics of theirs. The next thing will be how musically talented they are. This is an excellent 19 track album that has everything from "alternative" staples like "Birdhouse in Your Soul", to crazy sing-a-longs you would expect to hear on Saturday morning cartoons. My 2 favorites are "We want a Rock", and "Whistling in the Dark". This is without a doubt their best cd, and would go perfectly between your "Violent Femmes" and "Barenaked Ladies" records.
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on July 25, 1999
The first rock music I ever listened to was this very album: Flood. I was young, so what appealed to me was the silliness and fun they could have with sub-pop/rock music. THEY still appeal to me but in a different fashion. This album is terrific and if you like tmbg this is a band-defining album and a must have. But why would ANYONE sit around listening to the same 19 tracks and complaining about everything else TMBG does? I just don't get it. FS and Appolo 18 are definitely better than Flood, FS for its variety and Appolo 18 for its creativity. While I like Flood, it seems to be less stimulating than several of their albums.
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on December 28, 2001
Ironically, I got this one last in my entire collection of their total 9 cds--but I recognize this one nonetheless as one that is excellent for the casual listener to use as an introductory piece to the world of TMBG. Their cds are excellent, all of them, but this one is the most conventional, followed by probably Mink Car and Factory Showroom, and then TMBG and Lincoln and Apollo 18, and then only after they own all of those, John Henry. I merely listed them in the order of convention--from the bizarre and popular to the incredibly bizarre and eclectic. This is where you should start.
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