Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I Like Fun: The Return Of They Might Be Giants (Who Never Left)!

What does one write about They Might Be Giants that hasn't been written before? 

Two Johns (Flansbergh and Linnell) join forces with a drum machine to take their snarky, whip-smart nerd rock to the masses and, by 1988, have succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations with two critically-lauded albums and a single ("Ana Ng") that sees the band graduating from "college radio" to "commercial modern rock" with all idiosyncrasies intact.

1990's Flood, their first for Elektra Records, shows the band adjusting to major labeldom with supreme confidence and delivering the best album of their career, highlighted by the MTV and modern rock radio staples "Birdhouse In Your Soul", "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Particle Man".

On 1994's John Henry, the band commits sacrilege by recording with a full band. They are boycotted by their own fans. 1996's Factory Showroom shows the band effortlessly surpassing the nerdy charm of Flood, but getting none of the marketing support from Elektra. They actively seek and are granted release from the label.

Thanks to a rekindled relationship with Restless Records, a series of compilations and live albums follow.

In 2001, they're tapped by the Fox network for the theme song to the TV series "Malcolm In The Middle". Challenged to come up with a song that best captures the exuberance, the recklessness, and the irreverence of youth, the band delivers on all counts.

The song "Boss of Me" becomes a hit in Europe and Australia, but, oddly enough, not in America, where the show is actually broadcast.

A year later, they release No!, their first children's album.

Being without child, it is at this point that I, longtime casual fair-weather fan of the mighty TMBG, temporarily bid the band adieu until such a time as they make a record for us "growed up" kids again.

Thankfully, that album has arrived, and, quite succinctly, it is called I Like Fun.

Musically, the album more than lives up to its title, dabbling in a relatively accessible brand of pop not all too far removed from the Beatles psychedelic era, Beck, or Cake, whose similarities no longer escape this writer.

"Let's Get This Over With" channels the Ben Folds Five while playfully name-checking both Midnight Star's "No Parking On The Dancefloor" and Supersonic's "Closing Time".

Hell, they even out-Weezer the almighty Rivers Cuomo and the Rivers Cuomo Band featuring Rivers Cuomo on the fuzzed-out garage rocker "An Insult To The Fact Checkers".

Most surprisingly, they deliver such a truly inspired take on Fountains of Wayne with "All Time What" that it would not surprise this writer of Sirs Collingwood and Schlesinger hang it up after hearing it.

In addition to delivering a cleverly arranged, effortlessly executed album that both rocks and swings with loads of vigor, what makes this album their most engaging effort since Flood is that, instead of striving to be the smartest kids in the room, TMBG choose instead to play to the smartest kids in the room and, in doing so, they may reconnect with old fans while making a new generation of fans in the process.

Such fans will no doubt be interested to know of the band's March 17th show at The Vic Theatre, for which tickets are $29.50 and STILL AVAILABLE.

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