Release Date: Jan 19, 2018
Record label: Idlewild Recordings
More than 30 years ago, John Linnell and John Flansburgh started a band called They Might Be Giants, and they crafted quirky pop songs using a guitar, an accordion, horns, a drum machine and an absurdist sense of humor. They were unusual and they were great, and the combination of the two made them pretty darn popular. More than 20 years ago, Linnell and Flansburgh, having tasted success in their original format, decided to expand They Might Be Giants into a full rock .
Following the deluge of music They Might Be Giants unleashed in 2015 and 2016 -- which included Glean, Phone Power, and the children's album Why? -- the band took nearly a year to make their 20th full-length, I Like Fun. They recorded it at a space that used to be Skyline Studios, where they made 1990's classic Flood, so it's not surprising that several of these songs, such as the brassy "All Time What," the witty power pop of "The Bright Side," and the surreally slinky "McCafferty's Bib" sound like they could've appeared on that album. However, the Giants don't focus on nostalgia so much as their enduring skill at combining darkly humorous words with vivid sounds, which they do expertly on "I Left My Body.
Irreverent pop masters They Might Be Giants have returned with their 20th studio album, the straightforwardly titled I Like Fun. Announced in press material as the band's latest "rock album" in order to separate it from the gleeful children's material they've released over the last decade, this description unfortunately also hints at some of the less imaginative textures and production on I Like Fun. Luckily, TMBG split the difference between these sometimes workmanlike rock exercises and other more interesting compositions. Although still bursting with the wonderfully absurdist wordplay and consummate vocal harmonies one has come to expect from TMBG, these rock-oriented tracks frankly sound a bit dated and uninspired at times.
The paradox at the heart of I Like Fun is that the Brooklyn duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell stay true to their quirky upbeat pop while addressing more sombre subject matter than usual. They say it’s an album rooted in “dread, death and disappointment”, they’re not kidding; the opening Let’s Get This Over With is tantamount to a glee club suicide note. Call it irony or satire (always handy defences to hide behind), what’s on offer here is a catalogue of woes couched in melodic jollity, most notably railing against the Trump administration’s dismissal of considered journalism on the rocky An Insult To The Fact Checkers..