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They Might Be Giants They Might Be Giants
Album: I Like Fun
Label: Lojinx
Tracks: 15

I Like Fun is the twentieth studio album from They Might Be Giants, which shows incredible longevity for a band that specialise in quirky pop songs full of humour. While there is novelty leaking out of every pore, TMBG is anything but a novelty act, showing impressive variation over the last 30 odd years. After their Disney released children's albums a decade ago, and their recent Dial-A-Song trio of releases, I Like Fun is perhaps one of their most traditional rock albums. Of course this being TBMG, there is still plenty of room for experimentation and eccentricity.

What becomes clear fairly early on, and certainly on repeated listens, is that while the style might be jaunty, the substance is at times pitch black. Let's Get This Over may sound jolly with its mix of piano and drums, but the imagery is somewhat less than cheering. Push Back The Hands has a darkly disco feel that is at once catchy and upbeat, but with a lyrical wistfulness. There are still more than a few flickers of the kind of eccentrically typical TMBG track we've perhaps come to expect. The title track feels reminiscent of their early work, a bit of an oddity with bass clarinet to the fore, but a very welcome one. McCafferty's Bib is similar, with an unsettling high pitched beat, and muted unsettling lyrics.

The highlight of the album comes with a trio of songs that are quite brilliant, beginning with This Microphone - effortlessly entertaining but surprisingly deep. The Bright Side is the kind of ebullient track that brought THBG into the limelight, catchy but far from vacuous. When The Lights Come On has just the slightest hints of punk rock with its frenetic drums, and head-banging rhythm, but as with most THBG's song, it's just a joyful tune to listen to.

After 30 plus years you'd think that a band might lose its ability to surprise and delight. There were rumbles after 2016's Phone Power that TMBG were beginning to sound like they were running out of songs. Fortunately nothing could be further from the truth, and this new album is one of the strongest they have produced in years. I Like Fun is childish and mature, lightweight and serious, joyful and morose; and if that sounds contradictory to you, welcome to They Might Be Giants.

Adam Jenkins