Music Review: They Might Be Giants, Why?

Published on November 27th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Melissa Bratcher


They Might Be Giants can’t help but be They Might Be Giants. Since 1982, TMBG have been doling out idiosyncratic melodies with unusual instrumentation and clever, visual lyrics. Their jump to making music for families (not kids, specifically, but families) was less a jump than a side step, and a logical move. Those of us who listened to TMBG as yoofs have been known to foist cassettes of their music on our own children (who, if they have any taste at all, loved them) and one day, those children will foist hologidgets of TMBG on their children and thus the cycle will be repeated forever and ever, etcetera.

They Might Be Giants’ new family album, Why? may be geared to younger ears, but it’s never cloying or condescending. Instead, it’s catchy, often hilarious, and displays the finely honed sense of oddness and curiosity that we’ve come to expect from TMBG. From power-pop tributes to a many-horned horse (“Omnicorn”), to a fine “come here/go away” song done in a round of sorts (“I Haven’t Seen You In Forever”), They Might Be Giants’ song craft is, as always, impeccable.

So many of the songs are out and out hilarious. “I Am Invisible,” a song about the perils and perks of being invisible, has a hysterical verse about a cat that I want to force people to listen to. The sense of childlike possibility is palpable. The opening track “Oh You Did,” sung by Robin Goldwasser, is a cautionary tale told too late. The song is jaunty (with banjos!) with a very light touch, but the chorus is heavy with regret. “Thinking Machine” is a funny conversation between the Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) that devolves into “not words” over some genius, spacey jazz. “Definition Of Good” is a litany of awesome things with delightfully off-kilter guitar work and suggests that listeners listen to Captain Beefheart (and they should). “Or So I Have Heard” is another list of things, a brilliant collection of important facts that aren’t so much facts, with an ear wormy melody.

Why? also deals with issues that affect our children. “I Made A Mess” is dramatic, apropos of the subject matter. It’s a tragic tango of tragedy that resolves in a kaleidoscope of musical styles. “I Just Want To Dance” speaks to the universal sentiment of just wanting to bust a move even when you might not ought to, and it’s funky. “Mole, Hounds, Bears, Bees and Hares” is informative and wonderful, with thunderous timpani and spare guitar. The Beatlesesque “So Crazy For Books” will strike a chord with readers, perfectly capturing the joy of going to the library, picking up a fat stack of books and taking them home to devour. The joyful background chorus, “Read books/read books/yes books” is instant pleasure. “Then The Kids Took Over” is triumphant, forward-looking power pop with a pure TMBG twist.

Why? is a smart collection of tidy, short songs (nothing goes over 2:40, which certainly appeals to the shorter attention-spanned of us). They Might Be Giants have made an album that is great for kids, but smart and funny enough that adults will find themselves listening to it even with the kids aren’t around.

Why? was released on November 27 by Idlewild Recordings.

Tour Dates:
11/29: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
12/31: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
1/1: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
1/2: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
1/27: Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
1/28: Newcastle @ Riverside
1/30: Belfast @ Limelight 1
1/31: Glasgow @ Celtic Connections Festival (2 shows)
2/1: Manchester @ Academy 2
2/3: Cambridge @ Cambridge Junction
2/4: London @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
3/17: Baltimore, MD @ Ram’s Head Live
3/18: Covington, KY @ Madison Theatre
3/19: Milwaukee, WI @Turner Hall
3/20: Chicago, IL (Kids Show) @ Vic Theatre
3/23: Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
3/26: Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
3/27: San Diego, CA @ Belly Up
3/29: Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
3/31: Austin, TX @ Stubb’s
4/1: Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
4/2: New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
4/3: Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
4/5: St. Petersburg, FL @ The State Theatre
4/7: Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
4/8: Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
4/9: Raleigh, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
4/10: Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts

One Response to “Music Review: They Might Be Giants, Why?”

  1. BEST OF 2015: Twenty Bangin' Albums You Have To Hear:
    March 21st, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    […] it’s not an album — three albums will collect all the music, and two of those, Glean and Why?, are already out, and the third, Phone Power, will be out early next year… but why not take […]

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