They Might Be Giants, “I Like Fun”
They Might Be Giants
I Like Fun
Formed in 1982, the same year CDs first appeared and Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released, They Might Be Giants have managed not only to outlive most of their contemporaries—commercially speaking that is, we’re not being morbid—but to consistently release solid work at the clip of roughly an album every two years since their self-titled debut in 1986. Their commercial peak from the late ’80s to mid-’90s coincided with the rise of alternative rock and college radio, which helped make their quirky and experimental pop a staple for millions of earnest mixtapes, back when mixtapes were actual tapes. Fire up “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and be transported back to the golden age of modern rock.
That the band—for all intents and purposes the duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, plus sidemen—has maintained its relevance for over three decades is astonishing. That they’re still making albums as good as I Like Fun is exemplary. Comprised of fifteen tracks, with most clocking in between two and three minutes, the new album gives a nod to the variety of musical styles that have been part of the Giants’ palate all these years; as always the lyrics stand out for their wit and meaning—TMBG don’t do throwaway.
Understandably, given the band’s maturity and the current political climate, many of the songs on I Like Fun aren’t so much fun, at least lyrically. Themes of death, longevity, loneliness, relevance, and Armageddon mix it up with typical TMBG quirkiness, as evidenced on the album’s title track, a song with gravity as a central character. We open with “Let’s Get This Over With,” an obvious and brilliant lament on aging that might be a perfect pop song. To wit, lyrics include, “You’re still hanging around the clambake / After every clam has been baked.” Tough, man. That standard pretty much maintains throughout the remaining fourteen tracks, evidence to the fact that TMBG have perfected a style as indelible as the greats. Certainly clean, cerebral pop music isn’t for everyone, but if all of the above is of interest, you can’t beat I Like Fun.