Earlier this summer, eternally amiable art-rockers They Might Be Giants released Join Us, their first album for grown-ups in four years (their sideline as kid music superstars has been lucrative and award-winning, but we’re glad to have them back). In this video for strutty cabaret joint “Cloisonné,” the band squarely plays the song in a blue-lit, wood-paneled basement adorned with giant headshots of turn-of-the-century newspaper editor and Progressive movement leader William Allen White. They seem to be rehearsing for a 50th high school reunion or Kiwanis lunch – until John Flansburgh picks up a super modern electric guitar for an interlude solo.
“The story behind the song ‘Cloisonné’ is pretty discombobulated,” says Flansburgh, who also directed the video. “In an experimental period of putting Join Us together we created a series of electronic beats entirely without song ideas behind them. The idea was to make the tiniest drum machine-based beats that were still exciting. I probably spent twelve hours just editing and tweaking these sounds with no particular song in mind. The lyric is kind of from a Rat Pack point of view – like the guy singing is really into his own swagger, but he’s also kind of out of date and out of it.”