"Nanobots" erschien jedoch bereits Anfang März und steckt in einer von Paul Sahre gestalteten Hülle, der Gemälde von Sam Weber zu Grunde liegen und die von Spin mit "Max-Ernst-gone-Saw" passend beschrieben wurde. Sahre entwarf (neben den TMBG-Spielkarte, -Münzen, -Aufnähern usw.) auch die TMBG-App ("a different song every day"), die man hier umsonst erhalten kann.
There’s “Lost My Mind,” which imagines that the narrator’s disembodied brain has gone on to a life of its own, works in the line “To summarize, this whole planet is elliptical,” and still finds some submerged emotion in the high concept. “Tesla” is an ode to the electricity pioneer (not the hair-rock band, although TMBG could have pulled that off as well,) and it comes off far more heartfelt than ironic.
Some of the songs go on for just a few seconds, a tactic reminiscent of the band’s bite-sized symphony “Fingertips” from 1992’s Apollo 18. Whether you find this an annoying gimmick or a genius, self-aware commentary on the disposability of pop music, you have to give the guys credit for packing a lot of punch into those snippets.
One of the best songs on the album is “Stone Cold Coup d’Etat,” a punchy ode to the triumph of the underdogs in all life’s various confrontations. It’s a fitting summation of They Might Be Giants’ ability to upend expectations for all these years. Wherever that kid from college is these days, he’ll probably have Nanobots in heavy rotation. If only it still came out on cassette.
“Your head’s on fire,” Linnell dryly intones on opener ‘You’re on Fire,’ a fun gem with a soulful chorus of “combustible head!” The musical references here and throughout the album are reminiscent of satirist and composer Frank Zappa, not novelty bands. TMBG their music history, and it shows.
‘Nanobots’ mostly comprises regular full-length songs, but the middle of the album features a series of the band’s patented mini-songs, a throwback to ‘Fingertips’ on 1992′s ‘Apollo 18′ (21 short tracks that were intended for fans to listen to on shuffle mode when CDs were the common release format). Of course, no TMBG record would be complete without an homage to an historical figure, and ‘Nanobots’ is no exception. Here, we get a tribute to Nikola Tesla (called, as you might have guessed, ‘Tesla’).
TMBG’s usual dry delivery makes ‘Nanobots’ one of the most enjoyable albums in their catalog. They tend not to take themselves too seriously, and that may be why some critics see them as lightweight. But that’s their loss. Underneath the winks and nods, the musicianship is always more than solid. The production, too, is immaculate here.
Diehard fans will be more than content with this album, and listeners who are new to the band and looking for an introduction that goes down easy are likely to find ‘Nanobots’ more than palatable.