They Might Be Giants
I Like Fun
Idlewild Recordings · January 19, 2018
I Like Fun is They Might Be Giants’ 20th studio album to date. The only statistic more astonishing than that is that the band has been pumping out music for over 25 years. Last year alone, they released 3 albums and wrote a new song every week as part of their infamous Dial-a-Song program. You may know They Might Be Giants as the band behind masterpieces like the ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme,’ ‘Hot Dog!,’ and ‘You’re Not the Boss of Me’ from Malcolm in the Middle. Your parents probably know them too, for hits like ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul,’ ‘Istanbul,’ and ‘Don’t Let’s Start.’ You’d think after so long they would be burnt out and stale, but this album proves that the band still has plenty of wacky ideas left.
They Might Be Giants are known for writing silly songs on obscure topics, like ‘Particle Man,’ ‘Youth Culture Killed My Dog,’ and ‘James K. Polk’ as well as more serious songs like ‘Your Racist Friend,’ ‘Don’t Let’s Start’ and ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ In short, they are geeks that love to have fun with music, so much so that they even wrote a few albums of educational pop music for kids. Their sound is a lot like many of their early 90’s alt-rock contemporaries like R.E.M. and Cake, but nobody writes songs with the same wit and humor as they do.
This album, I Like Fun, doesn’t disappoint with a ton of quirky songs of its own. For example, the song ‘I Left My Body’ is literally about the singer forgetting where they left their body after an out-of-body experience, describing it like a backpack you left in a locker at theme park. Even the first song on the album, ‘Let’s Get This Over With,’ while dancy and upbeat is about how time moves on without you and the futility of most peoples’ lives. It’s a little sarcastic and a little nihilistic, but has an unmistakable pop sound that makes it so easy to listen to. This lighthearted existentialism is persistent throughout the entire album, giving it a dark feel under a thin disguise of alt-rock and pop stylings. ‘By the Time You Get This’ is a time capsule letter from a thousand years ago to the world of 1937. They are aware of their mortality and that they will never see the future but also confident that all the world’s problems have been solved. While this example is comically specific, it’s still a clever song that shows the unpredictability of humanity’s future.
No matter how dark or weird this album gets, the songs remain catchy and easy to listen to. This isn’t a deeply personal or passionate album, and the songs are light, occasionally dancy, but slightly detached. The punk styled song ‘All Time What’ is just about a breakup, and even though it’s filled with overly complex words and metaphors, it’s still completely relatable. ‘Push Back the Hands’ captures ears with a catchy chorus, bouncy bass line, and some light poppy guitar. However, as soon as you start to listen, it’s clear this song is about aging and how time ticks by slowly destroying your body. It has my all-time favorite line, “You would give up your right arm to go back/ To when you had a right arm” which is the perfect example of the black humor in this album.
Although this album seems like an existential crisis-inducing downer, the songs in it don’t give it away easily. They are written in the alt-rock style that They Might Be Giants has perfected over the past 25 years. The strength of this album is in its lyrics, which consistently stick to the theme of the album while still creating extremely unique stories. While they aren’t the focal point of every song and sometimes get lost behind the melodies, they are what make TMBG special. They reward the listener with a whole new level of understanding and connection with the song. It may not be a Grammy contender or a game changer, but it’s a perfectly fine album to give a listen to while you’re in a good mood. If nothing else, it shows that They Might Be Giants is still crazy after all these years.