posted on July 14, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'Here Come the 123s' by They Might Be Giants
Review Snapshot: Grammy-winning quirky, melodic fun from 90s indie icons. Not just for kids!
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
They Might Be Giants had a succession of indie hits back in the late 80s/early 90s. Their best-known album was "Flood", released in 1990, on which you'll find the indie disco staple "Little birdhouse in your soul". People took music pretty seriously back then (when rock music fans were the goodies and rave music fans were the baddies) and they suffered a little bit in the eyes of the Serious Music Fan on account of being too much, well, FUN compared to the other bands that were hip at the time, but I guess it didn't phase them much as they've released 10 studio albums since, with the most recent albums featuring music for kids that adults too could love.
Their music had a kind of kiddishness to it even early on - there was a song on "Flood" called "Particle Man" that described battles between Particle Man, Triangle Man and Person Man and was made into a Tiny Toons video. It wasn't until 2002 though that they released their first full album for kids called "No!", which they followed with "Here come the ABCs" (2005) and then this album.
Like their grown-up music output, the basic template is American alternative rock, but very quirky, very melodic, and fun fun fun! Most of the songs have some kind of number-related theme - from "Zeros mean so much" to "813 mile car trip" - but this isn't an educational record in that it doesn't make any attempt to teach, rather it just uses numbers as jumping-off points for goofy (and somtimes amazing) lyrical ideas, like "9 bowls of soup" in which an ichthyosaur uses bowls of soup to construct a Very Large Array with a view to communicating with aliens (and inviting them for lunch). Stylistically it's pretty eclectic - "There's only one Everything" is danceable indie pop, "The number two" is reminiscent of 70s Elton John, "High five" is faintly disco-y, "Days of the week" is a march - but it's all distinctively They Might Be Giants, and every single song has a hummable tune. So hummable, in fact, that it's damn hard to get some of them out of your head - in my house you can regularly hear "One dozen monkeys" being sung as you pass the shower door.
Don't let the fact that this is aimed at children put you off, though if you have kids/nephews/nieces/younger siblings this would make a brilliant present (and they'll love the accompanying DVD, complete with the band as woollen puppets). Obviously it's neither earth-shattering nor profound, but it's entertaining in the best sense of the word, and it'll put a big grin on your face.
- Cormac is in Stoat and recently launched kids-tunes.com which sells CDs for kids (such as 'Here Come the 123s' by They Might Be Giants).