John Henry seems to be a reaction to the labels being placed on They Might Be Giants in the early 90's. They were generally written off as something of a joke, and John Henry sounds like anything but a joke band telling jokes. The only problem is that it strayed a bit from the things that made the TMBG faithful love them and generally failed to bring in new listeners. Turns out a straightforward approach is the exact opposite of what fans wanted.
Although I've never been a huge fan of John Henry, it does have some nice songs. "Meet James Ensor" is actually one of my favorite TMBG tunes, and "I Should Be Allowed to Think" and "The End of the Tour" are good enough to be Flood material. When taken as a whole, John Henry is a somewhat disappointing album with a few good moments and a couple great songs. They Might Be Giants can do - and have done- better.