First thought on this latest from Why? How the hell did they clone They Might Be Giants? No, wait, I don't believe in human cloning. Okay, how did they get They Might Be Giants to record under another name? Are John Flansburgh and John Linnell so up-to-the-crusty-bibs in their kids' record line that they need a pseudonym to say "shit" out loud?
But no, Why? is a trio of guys from Oakland who used to be hip-hop. How they mastered the pinched, flat-voweled sounds of TMBG while brewing up hip-hop in Oakland I'll leave to the cloning scientists. And perfection lies too far across -- where the Bay boys muster a catchy, foreboding chorus for "Against Me," the Johns would serve up three or four in a row.
Against that, though, Eskimo Snow understands the fundamental principle of mild anxiety that's kept TMBG in ducats for decades. They also understand the eerie use of bicycle bells ("Against Me"), ominous soul backing vocals ("These Hands"), and the mordant portent of the rose, which they use in two songs in a row.
Yes, they say "shit" out loud and invoke the Manneken Pis (statue of the pissing boy) in Belgium, where TMBG, with its prescriptions for circumscribed-only anger and decorum above all (even wit), wouldn't stand for such moves. But they knock the whole thing off about as well as Wham! knocked off Motown, and I mean that as a compliment. Listen to this until TMBG decides to stop making kids' records. Or until present company decides to go back to hip-hop.
Songs: (1) These Hands (2) January Twenty Something (3) Against Me (4) Even The Good Wood Gone (5) Into The Shadows Of My Embrace (6) One Rose (7) On Rose Walk, Insomniac (8) Berkeley By Hearseback (9) This Blackest Purse (10) Eskimo Snow