They Might Be Giants | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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They Might Be Giants


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Back in 1986, this wiseass two-man band from Brooklyn proudly released their first album full of deadpan synth-pop melodramas, catchy heartbreaking songs, dumb cowpoke sing-alongs, and just about every other received pop cliche they could think of. They claimed none of it as their own. In fact, it was all performed with cheesy, synthesized instrumentation and broad, geeky singing that practically shrieked cynical inauthenticlity. What saved their detached postmodernism from being merely off-putting, however, was their ingenious, meticulous, and thoroughly unexpected craftsmanship. The preconstructed melodies often caught more than such melodies usually catch, their fake textures were full of small surprises, and most of all their lyrics actually justified their postmodern settings by deconstructing instead of just ridiculing the pop form in which they were set. Titles like "Alienation's for the Rich" and "Youth Culture Killed My Dog" only hint at the savage, unfair truths their best songs delved into; love, security, and pop itself were some of their targets. Though their new album, Lincoln--which often opts for private obscurity instead of pop precision, for Elvis Costello instead of Randy Newman--doesn't pack such a wallop live, packing a wallop isn't what they're about anyway. Constrained by their backing tapes, they goof off with silly stage props that make their songs more transparent, more genuinely funny than on any disc (Elvis C. could never pull this off). Their records make you choke on your laugh, but live, you just roll your eyes and go with the flow. With postmodernism, you couldn't very well ask for more. Tonight, 11 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

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