*** THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS "Flood" Elektra : Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

And they might be big-time now that they're on a major label. Then again, probably not. This third Giant effort from the New Jersey duo is quite like the iconoclastic, independent gems that preceded it, full of socio-romantic musings disguised as absurdist, minimalist, Dada demo-rock, not to mentionample, accordion-accompanied power pop helpings of humorously opaque symbolism . . . sorta like Joseph Campbell meets Weird Al Yankovic. Public radio programmers, repentant intellectuals and very small children should all love it.

Among the highlights (and among the four tracks produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, with only slightly more instrumentation than usual): a revival of the Four Lads' 1953 novelty "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," a pointless musing on cities' changing names that sounds like something drunkards might sing in unison in a beer hall, if their lips could move that fast; and, more seriously, "Your Racist Friend," an instant classic about suffering the idiocy of fools for the sake of third parties.

Manic and deadpan whiny, They Might Be Giants aren't about to escape the dreaded onus of novelty act with this brisk 19-ditty album, but geez, with titles like "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" (which is less easy to dissect than it sounds) and the soon-to-be-a-college-radio-standard "Birdhouse in Your Soul," they do still really bring it on themselves--thank goodness.

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