Is weird the same as fun? That’s a question I’ll have to answer later.
Well, it all depends on what strange and wonderful paths I Like Fun takes me down. For an alternative band who started in 1982, some people may find it strange how They Might Be Giants are still going strong after so many years. They’re an oddity in their own genre, which is a pretty strange genre in of itself!
I reckon you could count the number of bands classed as both experimental rock and children’s music, on one hand. It would be a list of one if I’m honest, and rightfully so. Over the course of their career, With tracks like “Birdhouse In Your Soul” and “Boss Of Me” (theme from Malcolm In The Middle), They Might Be Giants have released some of the most unique, yet most accessible alt-rock to come out of America.
As the 20th album from They Might Be Giants, I Like Fun is the 4th record in just under 3 years.
Thanks to the resurgence of their Dial-A-Song campaign, They Might Be Giants have dropped three albums within a two-year period leading up to I Like Fun. This has led some to believe the band is in a regression phase by reveling in their glory days. On the outside, that could be a fair assessment seeing I Like Fun was recorded at Reservoir Studios, the same studio space used to record Flood. By once again announcing the Dial-A-Song campaign for the third time, it does feel as if they’re looking to their biggest successes for inspiration.
I’ll admit, maybe it’s a little unfair to assume they’re looking back instead of moving forward. There’s a layer of comfort and safety added to their tone thanks heading to places they’ve been. Sometimes familiar places help bring out the best in an artist. Perhaps they understand this and were aiming for that. A lot has changed in the twenty-eight years since Flood, so it’s not like they’re the same people who recorded that record all those moons ago.
In any case, I Like Fun was announced in October of 2017 and now it’s finally here.
The first thing I noticed about this album is how it contains some of the heaviest numbers They Might Be Giants have released in a very long time. Their swagger is back in songs such as “I Left My Body” and “All Time What” While “An Insult to the Fact Checkers” and “Last Wave” feature all their signature charm. I Like Fun also has its share of experimentation. “Mrs. Bluebeard” has a strange time signature slightly uncomfortable to the ear. “The Bright Side” is a song bathed in sunshine, but darkness in its soul, which is the kind of twist I have come to expect from They Might Be Giants.
So, there’s plenty of fun here, but is that a problem?
Considering the album is just over 40 minutes in length, I Like Fun could use some editing. If it would lose about 10 minutes, the album would felt leaner without losing it’s prime focus. Just because songs are short, doesn’t mean an album doesn’t run the risk of being bloated. Sometimes less is more and that’s something They Might Be Giants have always struggled with. They give their audience everything and in this case, it’s a little too much. I will praise them for one thing though; I Like Fun doesn’t sound like a nostalgia trip. While listening to this album, never once did I feel like I was listening to a band trying to recreate the past. And that is a beautiful thing!
So getting back to my opening question, is weird the same as fun? It would appear not, but this is still a decent record. I can’t say I disliked this album at all. There are some cracking tunes and I do love a strange track every now and then. But They Might Be Giants need to be able to edit an album down. The runtime is what stops I Like Fun from being a truly great record. One day they might do just that but until then, it’s always so close and yet so far.