They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun Album Review
Alternative rock’s official good-hearted oddballs are anything short of prolific, with I Like Fun marking the duo’s twentieth studio album in their now 36-year career. Though the group haven’t been able to remain on the cutting edge of alternative and independent music since the 1990s, they’ve never lost their charismatic energy and songwriting abilities. After putting out three compilations of songs from their 2015 Dial-A-Song project, I Like Fun is the first time since 2013’s Nanobots that They Might Be Giants have gone into the studio with the intention to make a cohesive project. Though the results are par-for-the-course compared to They Might Be Giants’ prior discography, the band still remains a vital independent and irreverent voice in the realm of alternative rock.
What’s foremost apparent upon the first listen of I Like Fun is a lyrical fixation on morbidness. Now this is nothing new for those familiar with They Might Be Giants’ prior work, but I Like Fun is much more overt than They might Be Giants’ previous work. Like many of their contemporaries, They Might Be Giants wear their feelings on the current political and social climate on their sleeve.
This is no more overt than on “Lake Monsters,” where They Might Be Giants compares the droves of far-right conservatives that came out of the woodworks to vote in the 2016 election to the aquatic creatures popular from monster films of the 1950s and 1960s. In true They Might Be Giants fashion, the metaphor operates on a variety of levels. Not only does it play with President Donald Trump’s catchphrase of “draining the swamp,” but it subtly draws a parallel that their political values went out of style over 50 years ago. I Like Fun is packed to the brim with these brilliant lyrical metaphors, providing some of the most intelligent political commentary of Trump’s current political reign.
They Might Be Giants pairs these great lyrics with their signature songwriting style, though with some slight deviation as compared to past albums. While every passage of these tracks remains tight and lean, the fun and adventurous instrumentation choices are much fewer and far between than past records. The majority of these songs take on a power pop sound, and though this sound is refreshing compared to the tired instrumental formula that almost every alternative rock band uses today, it fails to give the album’s songwriting the same kind of bite that more adventurous instrumentation could have achieved. This, combined with They Might Be Giants’ continued struggle to avoid flat mixing and production, holds the album back from feeling as fresh and immediate as They Might Be Giants have the strength to be.
But despite these shortcomings, I Like Fun still stands out above the current rut of Twenty One Pilot imitators that alternative rock has found itself stuck in. Its production choices may hold it back from standing the test of time, but I Like Fun delivers a fun and political 41 minutes that will likely rank as one of the best alternative projects come the end of the year.
Rating : 7/10
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.