They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun

by paul_guyet Rating:10 Release Date:2018-01-19
They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun
They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun

The one thing lacking from I Like Fun is fun. And that's 100% as it should be. After thirty-five years and twenty albums, They Might Be Giants have perfected their unique style and the result is this obsidian gem of an LP.

Not only is "Let's Get This Over With" a fantastic and relatable sentiment, a great name for an opener, and an excellent song, it also has what might be the best opening lyric from a They Might Be Giants album since their debut in 1986.*

And the album keeps getting better. "An Insult to the Fact Checkers" centers around a surly Flansburgh sneering over aggro-surf rock. "Mrs. Bluebeard", one of the most straightforward and stunning tracks here, joins the ranks of PG-13 educational songs like "The Lady and The Tiger" from 2011's Join Us, a posthumous lament from one (or all?) of the notorious pirate's dead wives ("I want to say I learned something valuable today / alas my murdered remains are incapable of learning anything / I’m not complaining / I’m not anything"). “I Like Fun” could be the theme for a follow up to The Oblongs. It starts off a little eerie with that warbling Linnell sample, then the chorus makes it weirdly nostalgic and warm. The enigmatic "McCafferty's Bib" is funky, slick, and untrustworthy, and "The Greatest" would have been perfect on an episode of Malcolm In The Middle

But the secret, sad heart of the album are the four tracks tucked between the uneasy creep of the title track and the sci-fi, hippie rock of "Lake Monsters". The forced, aching smile of "Push Back the Hands" ("it wouldn't help you if you'd had any sleep / it wouldn't save you from the mission creep"), the subtle, sorrowful sharpness in the mellow, sun-warmed "This Microphone" ("selflessly hiding all emotions inside / chilly and dry / New England style"), "The Bright Side", which sounds like a friendly, exhausted band locked into a shitty 15-album contract performing for a sunny field full of fans whom they loathe ("the bright side / is blinding our eyes / and the sound keeps ringing / the bright side / is just a white lie / that the crowd keeps singing"), and the frenetic, desperate hope of "When the Lights Come On"** ("there won't be any more trouble / you'll be dragged from the rubble / when the lights come on / and I'll be looking so great / I will have lost some weight / when the lights come on"). Listen to that tetralogy, read the lyrics, and you'll get the band's manifesto, the soul of They Might Be Giants.
This opus comes to a close with "Last Wave", the broken, unveiled face of I Like Fun. "We die alone  / we die afraid / we live in terror / we're naked and alone and the grave is the loneliest place".

It's not quirky. It's not funny. It's not fun. It's the truth and that is so goddamned sad.

Everything here is seething or apprehensive or resigned or snarky. The title track is about medicating away someone's enjoyment of life for Christ's sake...and the fact that this whole thing is called I Like Fun is the best sneer ever. Some might think this album is too morose***, but those people haven’t been paying attention; not to the music of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, and not to recent world events. This is the best, darkest, and most cohesive They Might Be Giants album in a quarter century.

* Perhaps a reference to "Don't Let's Start". Since we did let them start, we may as well get this over with.

** All the while it's so crushingly, painfully obvious that the lights will never come on again.

*** A potential alternate title for the album could be Songs of Fear, Anxiety, And Defeat.

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