Album: Join Us
. . .
When They Might Be Giants fifteenth studio album Join Us was released in 2011, it was marketed as They Might Be Giants first “rock album” in four years, because Here Come The 123s and Here Comes Science were their previous two releases, I guess.
But one thing I knew for sure, they opened it with their best song in ages, the utterly stunning “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” showing that Johns Linnell and Flansburgh could still kick out utterly killer pop toons a quarter-century after “Don’t Let’s Start.”
Anchored by a swirling piano hook from Linnell and pounding beat from drummer Marty Beller — they’d switched up to a full band in the mid-1980s — “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” lives solely for its killer chorus with Flansburgh singing the counterpoint to Linnell, same as it ever was.
And they can’t (down, down, down)
Can’t keep Johnny down (down, down, down)
They haven’t yet built the man (down, down, down)
That’ll keep old Johnny down (down, down, down)
And while I suspect that old Johnny hasn’t run into either Universe Man (or even Triangle Man), the melody line is so catchy and infectious that it doesn’t even matter, and perhaps because of the goodwill engendered by their childrens albums, Join Us ended up being the highest-charting They Might Be Giants album ever, making it to #32 on the main Billboard Albums chart and #8 on the Alternative, Indie and Rock charts, whatever the difference was between those charts in 2011.
They Might Be Giants keep chugging along with the same line up backing the Johns — Dan Miller on guitar, Danny Weinkauf on bass and the aforementioned Marty Beller on drums — since at least 2004. And the two Dans have been around since 1998. And they’ve remained prolific: hell, they released three full albums in 2018 alone. I haven’t heard all of their post 2011 records, but I can recommend 2013’s Nanobots, 2018’s I Like Fun and 2021’s Book, all of which had songs that were considered for this project, but as you can tell, I wouldn’t have had that much more to say outside of “man those are clever lyrics wedded to a catchy melody.”
“Can’t Keep Johnny Down” Official Music Video
“Can’t Keep Johnny Down” Live on Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon
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