By Samuel Cravey
Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: I Like Fun
Release Date: January 19, 2018
After making music for upwards of 30 years, John Flansburgh and John Linnell still have the urge release new music. I Like Fun marks the band’s 20th album. No small feat considering the New York based duo’s constellation of other successful ventures like creating children’s music and film soundtracks in addition to their already massive album count. The band name is They Might Be Giants, but the amount of music they have created certainly is giant, no question about that. From serious rock to pop-commercial jingles, TMBG has dabbled in it all. Drawing from their own wealth of experience, and some new and unique sounds, Flansburgh and Linnell have created a fresh album ripe for listening pleasure.
I Like Fun starts off with“Let’s Get This Over With.” Despite my initial urge to smash that skip button, this song is actually quite charming. I think it is the most cheesy song on the album, but despite sounding like a little like a children’s song I can’t shake the warm, fuzzy feeling I get after the song is over. Begs the question, why does the arguably worst track on the album make me feel good? My proposition: the song (and the album to an extent) is designed to draw out and recapture the sensation of youth. Bright notes, an upbeat tempo, catchy lyrics– before you realize it you’re tapping your foot to the beat. A wholesome song that seems too intricate to be simply passed off for “children’s music.”
Thankfully, the rest of the album doesn’t summon the urge to press skip. “I Left My Body” begins with a bright and jarring pop-rock rhythm that drives the song on for around thirty seconds before unexpectedly slipping into an infectious bass groove that hits sudden and smooth before cycling back into the initial beat. The song continues this pattern while the vocals sing, “I left my body, and I went on a journey, and I forgot where I left my body,” conjuring thoughts of being put under anesthesia for a surgery for the first time and the apprehension that comes along with it. Their quirky and humorous word choice in lyrics adds to the perception of what it’s like to be under anesthesia too. Far fetched ramblings rattle out to the beat of the song, “Unfinished Manuscript and tungsten ring, My plastic hip is going to be worth something, I took the folding knife and my bat repellent soap.” There is no shortage of original lyrical content in this album. The lyrics are all well thought out and delivered competently.
“I Like Fun” is the most interesting track on the album, relying on a bass clarinet to keep the beat of the song. This song exemplifies TMBG’s knack for experimentation in music. As the song waddles along to the bass clarinet beat, occasional vocals chime in on a single high pitched note that’s held for a little longer than a couple of seconds. This continues to loop for the majority of the song with the aid of a snare drum in the background. After the line “But that’s my fun and I like fun” the song shifts into a long stroll; both with vocals and with a floaty-sounding muted trumpet. That’s right, bass clarinet and muted trumpet. It’s a strange and intriguing combo to be sure. This brief interlude ends as the trumpet melody shifts into a sporadic staccato-esque rhythm that plays only as the lyrics are sung, holding the listener in suspense for the next few verses. Soon the song reforms back into the original waddle rhythm with a new trumpet melody added on top before gracefully coming to an end.
This old alt-rock group isn’t showing any sign of tiring out soon, all those years of accumulated experience hasn’t managed to weigh down their highly creative style. Instead, all the experience gained has become a honed set of tools to employ at their every whim. Happily, I can say TMBG is still churning out stimulating and weird music. These guys refuse to simply refuse to stagnate and its probably the reason they have stuck around album after album.