CD / LP / DL
Released 19 January 2018
Brooklyn’s most brainy and bizarre duo return with another lengthy, but highly lovable, collection of off-kilter pop gems. Sam Lambeth reviews.
Most rock bands nearing their fortieth anniversary are content to rest on their laurels or release pale imitations of their signature sound. Such propositions are scoffed at by zany rockers They Might Be Giants, however – not only have they continued to release music at a rapid rate (thanks to the recent rebirth of their Dial-A-Song service), they’ve never truly had a signature sound, just a selection of various motifs.
On I Like Fun, the focus is more on fuzz, with the elegiac melodies of standout track I Left My Body wrapping John Linnell’s rasping wryness around co-conspirator John Flansburgh’s chugging guitar. An Insult to the Fact Checkers is the kind of sugary blast of power pop that fellow anoraks Fountains of Wayne used to rustle up, while the scattered snares of When the Lights Come On and the scuzzy ruminations of Last Wave show renewed vigour and bite.
There’s more to I Like Fun than rocking out, however, and piano-led ditties Let’s Get This Over With and Mrs Bluebird have the baroque energy and dry demure of The Divine Comedy. The duo also enjoy some trademark musical detours, with the title track a surprisingly sombre jaunt of menacing woodwind. Equally, Push Back the Hands and Lake Monsters are propelled by chopped up beats, strident synths and surprisingly sleek pop sensibilities.
They Might Be Giants have continued to dip in and out of commercial appeal, but their own unique special brew of bizarre alt rock, melodic introspection and dextrous instrumentation mean they’ll always be looking up rather than down.
Sam Lambeth is a journalist, writer and musician, born in the West Midlands but currently living in London. He performs in his own band, Quinn. He is on Twitter, and more of his work can be found on his archive.