Lincoln (album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 25, 1988
RecordedMarch—June 1988
StudioDubway Studios, NYC
GenreAlternative rock, art pop
LabelBar/None / Restless
ProducerBill Krauss
They Might Be Giants chronology
They Might Be Giants
Don't Let's Start

Lincoln is the second studio album by the band They Might Be Giants. It was released by Bar/None in 1988. The album is named after John Linnell and John Flansburgh's boyhood home of Lincoln, Massachusetts. The album produced three singles—"Ana Ng", "They'll Need a Crane", and "Purple Toupee". It is included on Then: The Earlier Years, a compilation of the band's early material, in its entirety.


Lincoln maintains the range of musical styles present on the previous album, They Might Be Giants, and lyrically attempts to merge word play into narrative songs. Lyrical themes are broadened with the inclusion of songs detailing troubled romantic relationships ("Ana Ng", "They'll Need a Crane", "I've Got a Match"),[1][2] and songs that verge on social or political satire ("Purple Toupee", "Kiss Me, Son of God"),[3][4] whereas musically, the album explores a number of genres. For example, songs such as "Cowtown" and "Mr. Me" incorporate elements of sea shanties, while "Lie Still, Little Bottle" suggests a jazz influence.[5]

Like previous releases, Lincoln does not utilize a full band arrangement. Instead, bass and drum tracks are entirely synthetic or sampled, with the exception of "Lie Still, Little Bottle"'s live drums. The drum tracks on the album were produced with an Alesis HR-16 drum machine.[6] The album featured The Ordinaires, a nonet which was also signed to the Bar/None label, providing the string arrangement for "Kiss Me, Son of God".[7]


As of 1999, the album had sold more than 200,000 copies, double the amount of the previous album.[8]


The cover art depicts a shrine built by Brian Dewan, and photographed by Carol Kitman.[7] Two slightly different versions of the cover photograph exist: one that was used for domestic releases, and another that was used for all releases outside the United States, with the exception of the Australian releases and Italian CD. The two men pictured behind the lecterns in the shrine are John Linnell's great-grandfather, Lewis T. Linnell (left) and Flansburgh's maternal grandfather, Brigadier General Ralph Hospital (right).[9][10]

The artwork for the album was designed by John Flansburgh.[11] The CD and LP labels feature diagrams of an accordion and accordion case, which were drawn by John Linnell.[12]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[15]
The Village VoiceB+[17]

Lincoln received generally positive reviews. David Kissinger of Rolling Stone called the album "every bit as eccentric as its predecessor, and even more eclectic", though this was supplemented with the disclaimer that "[a]t times this penchant for the bizarre leads them into pointlessly sophomoric zaniness". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice described the band as "actively annoying even if intelligence is all you ask of your art-pop" and called the album's hooks "cleverness for cleverness's sake", nonetheless conceding that "damned clever they are."[17] The album placed at number 78 on Pitchfork's 100 Best Albums of the 1980s.[18]

The album peaked at number 89 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in 1989, spending 19 weeks on that chart. Its success led to They Might Be Giants' signing to the major label Elektra Records in 1990. Lincoln also generated the band's first charting single, "Ana Ng", which peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[19] The single, which was only released promotionally in the United States, also received positive attention. Christgau praised it as "a beyond-perfect tour de force about a Vietnamese woman they never got to meet". The other singles from the album, "They'll Need a Crane" and "Purple Toupee", failed to chart, though both songs and the track "Kiss Me, Son of God" received praise from Stewart Mason of Allmusic.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by They Might Be Giants.

Side one
1."Ana Ng"3:23
3."Lie Still, Little Bottle"2:06
4."Purple Toupee"2:40
5."Cage & Aquarium"1:10
6."Where Your Eyes Don't Go"3:06
7."Piece of Dirt"2:00
8."Mr. Me"1:52
9."Pencil Rain"2:42
Side two
10."The World's Address"2:24
11."I've Got a Match"2:36
12."Santa's Beard"1:55
13."You'll Miss Me"1:53
14."They'll Need a Crane"2:33
15."Shoehorn with Teeth"1:13
16."Stand on Your Own Head"1:16
17."Snowball in Hell"2:31
18."Kiss Me, Son of God"1:52
Total length:39:32

2013 Australian bonus disc[edit]

1."Hello Radio"0:55
2."It's Not My Birthday"1:52
3."I'll Sink Manhattan"2:32
4."Nightgown of the Sullen Moon"1:59
5."World's Address" (Joshua Fried remix)5:42
6."Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal"3:48
7."The Lady Is a Tramp" (Rodgers and Hart)1:20
8."Birds Fly"1:25
9."Kitten Intro"1:43
10."Weep Day"1:50
11."The Big Big Whoredom"1:39
12."I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (Bassman and Washington)1:59
13."Become a Robot"1:18
14."Which Describes How You're Feeling"1:24
15."Swing Is a Word"0:53
16."Doris Cunningham"0:12
17."Counterfeit Fake"0:39
18."Schoolchildren Singing 'Particle Man'"2:05


Track numbers refer to CD track list.

They Might Be Giants[20]

  • John Flansburgh – lead vocals (2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17), electric guitar (1, 2, 4–6, 8–12, 14, 16), trumpet (3, 13), backing vocals (4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 14, 18), acoustic guitar (6, 7, 9, 14, 17), melodica (17)
  • John Linnell – lead vocals (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14–16, 18), backing vocals (1, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17), accordion (1, 4, 7, 8, 11, 15–17), autoharp (1, 9), clarinet (2), keyboard (2, 6, 9–14, 16–18), baritone saxophone (3, 15), bass saxophone (5, 10, 13), bass harmonica (7), tenor saxophone (15), banjo (16)

Additional musicians

  • Lisa Klapp – bridge monologue (1)
  • Kenneth Nolan – drums (3)
  • Unknown – glockenspiel (15)
  • The Ordinaires – strings (18)


  • Brian Dewan – cover art
  • Al Houghton – engineer
  • Carol Kitman – cover photography
  • Bill Krauss – producer


  1. ^ Mason, Stewart. ""Ana Ng - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  2. ^ Mason, Stewart. ""They'll Need a Crane - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  3. ^ Mason, Stewart. ""Purple Toupee - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  4. ^ Mason, Stewart. ""Kiss Me, Son of God - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  5. ^ Tyre, Peg. "Giant Steps: A Peculiar Rock Duo Makes a Big Noise". New York. 6 February 1989.
  6. ^ Stated by John Linnell in a 1999 online chat (archived here)
  7. ^ a b Lincoln liner notes.
  8. ^ Muro, Matt (3 October 1999). "Where Rockers Have A Mind, and a Label, Of their Own". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ According to this unofficial FAQ, this was stated in the Fall, 1991 issue of "They", the fan club magazine; it was also noted in the "TMBG Info Club" newsletter, Fall 1994 (archived here).
  10. ^ Generals of World War II - Ralph Hospital was an Artillery Commander for the American forces.
  11. ^ Flansburgh's response to a question submitted to a Tumblr blog administered by the band
  12. ^ Pitchfork magazine, 1996
  13. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Lincoln – They Might Be Giants". AllMusic. Retrieved November 19, 2015.
  14. ^ Kissinger, David (January 26, 1989). "They Might Be Giants: Lincoln". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 26, 2008. Retrieved November 19, 2015.
  15. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "They Might Be Giants". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 808–09. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Perry, Andrew (July 1991). "They Might Be Giants: Lincoln". Select (13): 84.
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (March 14, 1989). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  18. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. 20 November 2002. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  19. ^ "Lincoln - They Might Be Giants". Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  20. ^ "Lincoln". This Might Be a Wiki: The TMBG Knowledge Base. Retrieved 10 September 2021.

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