If John Flansburgh is known at all in this city of the three rivers, it's as half of the quirky pop/rock duo They Might Be Giants. Since Flansburgh and Linnell are song-writing machines, they both have side bands as outlets for their material. On the first Mono Puff album, most of the songs were written by Flansburgh and had a very TMBGish flavor. On the latest release, It's Fun To Steal, the songs were written more as a band with lots of experimentation in rhythms, creating a Beck-ish white boy funk of deep grooving, party-atmosphere songs. But diversity is key here and although most of the songs are heavily processed shag carpet pseudo-funk, you'll find everything from straight rock to a capella folk to rockabilly ska.
The title song has the same suave soul-pop as "Pet Name" from TMBG's last album. The chorus is especially catchy with some tasty two-part hamonies as Flansburgh sings about cheating and breaking hearts. "Dashiki Lover" has a Zappa meets funk edge to it and would have fit right in on the first Mono Puff album. An early favorite was "Poison Flowers" as a kind of theme song for Dr. Evil. Starting with a foundation of aggressive rock, evil lyrics of world domination are layered on top such as "Who's going to build my death ray and grow poison flowers?" to which a chorus replies "We will! We will!" "Extra Crispy" is yet another love song to New York City, comparing it to chicken with "Once you have extra crispy / You'll never go back again." Where there are love songs, there are breakup songs such as creepy lounge of "I Just Found Out What Everybody Knows". Other odd characters populate this disc such as "Hillbilly Drummer Girl" ("Playing for a crowd of six/ Free beer and eight dollars/ That's money for new sticks") and "Night Security" sung in a resonant baritone. Though not for everyone, this disc is a great addition to seekers of fun musical experimentation and diversity.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2000.