It’s a bold move to start an album with a song called ‘Let’s Get This Over With’, especially when you’ve been a band for 35 years, but that’s how They Might Be Giants‘ twentieth album – and fifth for UK label Lojinx – I Like Fun begins. And, for a band still best known for 1990’s ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ and maybe the Malcolm in the Middle theme tune, perhaps even more so. If I’m being entirely honest, I couldn’t name a song beyond these two before listening to I Like Fun. They certainly do (like fun, that is); a fair old chunk of the album is made up of them dicking about. The title track is little more than a clarinet and rubbish jokes about their “excellence at parkour”. This would be fine, if they didn’t repeat it to really hammer it home: “My excellence at parkour might be unexpected/At the age of 58/It comes as quite a surprise”. We heard you the first time, stop telling us how brilliant this gag is.
That this is one of the stronger songs speaks volumes. Sure, it’s lyrically daft, but musically it’s interesting at least. The stripped back, almost jazzy arrangement is a breath of fresh air from the tired guitar pop most of the record leans on. Half the songs don’t even feel finished, starting with the vocals immediately and ending as soon as they run out of words. It’s more enjoyable when they sound relaxed. ‘An Insult to the Fact Checkers’ rushes out of the blocks in a way that you’d hope a band who have been together for so long would. Its instrumental tightness feels almost telepathic, the way that you’d hope they would. It’s a little lyrically lazy but there’s a lot of fun to be had. Speaking of which, ‘McCafferty’s Bib’ is the opposite. Lyrically it’s brilliantly surreal and musically it pulls a similar trick to the aforementioned ‘I Like Fun’, woodwind led and jazz rhythms. The difference is that ‘McCafferty’s Bib’ feels complete as a song. Even ‘Last Wave’, which otherwise is a classic rock album closer, has an air of coming into the verse halfway through.
I Like Fun isn’t going to win They Might Be Giants any new fans but at this point it’s hard to imagine them caring. If you were looking forward to their new album, you’ll enjoy it. If you weren’t aware, you’re going to remain unaware. They get a few new songs to freshen their set up. Everyone’s a winner, I guess.
I Like Fun is out now on Lojinx.