Album Review: I Like Fun by They Might Be Giants


AlbumI Like Fun
ArtistThey Might Be Giants
Release Date: 19 January 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Left My Body
  • By the Time You Get This
  • Push Back the Hands
  • The Greatest
  • Last Wave

Thoughts:

I wouldn’t be fair to say that They Might Be Giants peaked early, but it’s hard not to judge any new TMBG album without comparing it to their early work.  TMBG were one of the first “alternative” bands to gain widespread appeal and yet while they sounded nothing like mainstream music of the late 1980s, they also sound nothing like the other alternative bands.  All of this is a long way of saying that TMBG have dropped another solid album although nothing they do will ever seem so transformative as Lincoln and Flood when they were first released.

True to form, I Like Fun contains cheerful ditties with humorous lyrics that reflect on darker topics ranging from individual mortality to murder to the extinction of the human race. “They call me “the greatest”/’Cause I’m not very good/and they’re being sarcastic,” begins “The Greatest” with a gut punch.  “Last Wave” closes the album with the cheerful chorus “We die alone we die afraid/We live in terror we’re naked and alone.”

There are experiments in music styles and instrumentation, and several tracks have a crunchy guitar that makes it more straight-out rock music than typical TMBG.  But overall it sticks to the well-defined TMBG template the band has crafted over 30  years of doing their own damn thing and doing it well.

Rating: ***1/2

Related Posts:

Bands I Broke Up With


Recently, the All Songs Considered podcast rebroadcast an episode called Breaking Up With Your Favorite Bands.  It’s all about the moment when your realize that the band or artist you loved so much, you just don’t love anymore.  It could be them, it could be you.  You might still love the old stuff, or you might make a clean break.

So here are some of the bands that I broke up with and the reasons why.

eddie from ohio

Through the 1990s I was a huge fan of this folk-pop band who are actually from Virginia and I saw them in concert more times than any other performer.  They were an energetic and fun live band with great banter between songs. Their songs were introspective and witty (some songs made me laugh every time I heard them), they alternated vocals among three singers, and everything was powered by a unique percussion of Eddie Hartness’ drumkit.  Then in 2001 they released an album called Quick, the music sounded more light rock and the funny bits made me laugh once if at all.  Worst of all, in concert they seemed to abandon all the old songs I loved as well as their silly personas to become more button-down.  I think they’ve only released one album since our breakup and don’t tour much anymore, so maybe the time was up for them as well.

Dave Matthews Band

Another band I came to like when I went to college in Virginia.  During my freshman year they were playing bars in college towns, but by my senior year they were doing national arena tours.  In between that I saw them open for a concert at William & Mary for Toad the Wet Sprocket (who were actually a big deal at the time).  Their sound was unique for the mid-1990s and I liked the emphasis on the virtuoso performances of the fiddler, saxophonist, and drummer.  Then I went to  New Year’s concert in 1997 and realized that Dave Matthews himself was a obnoxious dudebro.  But what really brought an end to our affair was that after the first two albums, the sound of the band turned more into the typical bland, post-grunge sound that was common in that era.  I broke up and didn’t look back.

Sting

I first became aware of Sting and The Police when their Synchronicity album came out in 1983.  My sister was a big fan but I could take it or leave it.  But something about Sting’s …Nothing Like the Sun album appealed to me and I went back and discovered the earlier Police albums and I became a fan.  For a bit.   I was excited when The Soul Cages came out and it seemed profound that it was all about the death of his father at the same time that my own father died.  But the more I listened to it, the less I liked it. Ensuing Sting releases were increasingly bland and I reverted to my earlier take on Sting.

Lenny Kravitz

Let Love Rule came out in 1989 and I randomly selected the tape from Columbia House.  While the music is deeply derivative of 60s and 70s psychedelia and soul, it also didn’t sound much like anything else released at the time.  Add to the fact that I was coming out of my Klassik Rawk phase and it was nice to have a currently released album I could enjoy.  Perhaps it was a bridge to more contemporary released music for me?  At any rate, subsequent releases by Lenny Kravitz were cheezier and poppier, and I quietly stepped off the Kravitz bandwagon.

The Doors

Speaking of the Klassik Rawk period, I suppose there’s a time when many a teenager starts listening to The Doors and thinks that Jim Morrison was a tragic poet.  I didn’t get too deep, although I did read No One Here Gets Out Alive.  Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that after their debut album, most of the music released by The Doors was crap, a view I still hold to this day.

Fishbone

Fishbone was the first band I ever saw in concert, and wow – what a first concert. Intense music, dancing, moshing, crowd-surfing (I was nearly dropped on my head, naturally). Lead singer Angelo Moore even inducted concertgoers into the Fishbone family.  So it was very hard when Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe came out in 1993 and the band seemed to have abandoned their consciousness-raising ska/funk/soul for something that sounded like metal with nonsense lyrics.  Apparently the band was going through a troubled stretch and maybe I shouldn’t have abandoned them at such a hard time, but I still love what we had in the good days.

They Might Be Giants

Here’s a band I broke up with but then got back together again.  I was a huge fan in high school and college, and TMBG ended being the second band I saw in concert (back when it was the two Johns and a drum machine).  I listened to Flood and Lincoln endlessly, and their other albums slightly less often.  Then their album John Henry came out in 1994 and it left me cold.  The magic was gone.  Fast forward about five years and I randomly picked up their live album Severe Tire Damage, and suddenly, the magic was back.  I saw them in concert again and it was awesome.  They started releasing family/children’s albums and they were awesome.  I went to one of their family/children’s concerts and it was awesome.  We are now happily growing old together.

REM

Probably one of the most painful breakups.  I became of fan of REM in the late 80s and basically got all of their albums at once.  There was a long break, it seemed, between their last album of the 1980s, Green, and their first album of the 1990s, Out of Time.  When it finally came out, I was excited, but after hearing “Losing My Religion” for the umpteenth million time on the radio I was tired of it and realized I didn’t like much else on the album.  I had big hopes for the next album Automatic for the People, but I liked it even less.  Worse, at the time I was growing disillusioned with REM, the rest of the world was falling in love with them and making these two albums best sellers.  I may have said some nasty things, like “corporate sellout.”  But ultimately, we were just going in different directions.  We get back together now and again – I even liked UP at the time it was released – but mostly REM is pleasant memory of my youth in the 1980s.

So what bands did you break up with? Let me know in the comments.

Ten Favorite Songs of 2007


The project continues with my favorite songs of 2007.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Challengers – The New Pornographers

.

.

LDN – Lily Allen

.

.

Missed the Boat – Modest Mouse

.

.

My Moon My Man – Feist

.

.

Paper Planes – M.I.A.

.

.

Seven Days of the Week – They Might Be Giants

.

.

Tears Dry on Their Own – Amy Winehouse

.

.

Tell Me ‘Bout It – Joss Stone

.

.

Time to Pretend – MGMT

.

.

To the Dogs or Whoever – Josh Ritter

.

.

And my song of shame for 2007: American Wedding – Gogol Bordello

.

.

 And what are YOUR favorite songs from the year of 2007?

Book Review: They Might Be Giants’ Flood by S. Alexander Reed and Phillip Sandifer


Author: S. Alexander Reed and Phillip Sandifer
Title: They Might Be Giants’ Flood
Publication Info:
ISBN:9781623569150
Summary/Review:

Part of the Bloomsbury Academics 33 1/3 series of books about famous musical recordings, this book analyses my 6th favorite album of all time, They Might Be Giants’ Flood.  Pop scholarship at it’s best, the book explores the 20-song album and the themes that carry through them such as childhood, technology, and geek culture.  The latter is interesting in that John Flansbergh and John Linnell themselves do not identify as geeks, as a short biographical interlude makes clear, yet their paths lead them to the perfect point in 1990 when their creative output would resonate with geek culture (and with wider audiences as well).   The authors also develop a theory of “flooding”  as a form of “creative excess” manifest in TMBG’s work. It’s a remarkable little book and makes my want to look into more works in the 33 1/3 series.
Favorite Passages:

“What’s going on here is playfulness. Flood embodies the idea that creativity is an open-ended result of asking “what if,” and not the single-minded pursuit of a pre-imagined ideal.  The band’s music rejoices in a continual sense of play, altering and subverting the expected order of things, …. Because They Might Be Giants’ music is (almost) never in service of a joke, the silliness of song like “Particle Man” is exploratory, not goal-driven.  Musical, lyrical, and visual ideas then exist for their own sake.” – p. xiii

“Central to understanding the appeal of the album is the aesthetic of flooding.  We’re coining this term to mean, on its most reductive level, an aesthetic of creative excess.  Flooding isn’t merely a case of a lot, but of too much.  It hyperstimulation is exuberant, but in a way that goes both beyond delight and overripeness.” – p. 40

Rating: ****

Related Post: Concert Review: They Might Be Giants

Childhood

Technology

Geek Culture

Ten Favorite Songs of 1990


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1990.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Let’s dive into the new decade!

.

.

Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants

.

.

Bob’s Yer Uncle – Happy Mondays

.

.

Born At the Right Time – Paul Simon

.

.

Groove Is In The Heart –  Deee-Lite

.

.

Here’s Where The Story Ends – The Sundays

.

.

Jesus Was Way Cool –  King Missile

.

.

Loaded – Primal Scream

.

.

One Country – Midnight Oil

.

.

Solace of You – Living Colour

http://youtu.be/vIUke0CCvDs%5D

.

.
There She Goes –  The La’s


.

.

.

.

And my song of shame for 1990: Hold On by Wilson Phillips

.

.

Surely I’m forgetting something.  What are your favorite songs from 1990?

Ten Favorite Songs of 1988


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1988.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

.

.

.

Ana Ng – They Might Be Giants

.

.

Bring The Noise – Public Enemy

.

.

Change – Fishbone

.

.

Cult of Personality – Living Colour

.

.

Everyday Is Like Sunday – Morrissey

.

.
Jane Says – Jane’s Addiction

.

.

A Little Respect – Erasure

.

.

Never Tear Us Apart – INXS

.

.

Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies

.

.

 

Waiting Room – Fugazi

.

.

Where Is My Mind?– Pixies

.

.

.

.

.
And my song of shame for 1988: Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Do you remember 1988?  What were your favorite songs?  Let me know, even if it was before you were born.