If TMBG had been alive a few hundred years ago, they’d have been Europe’s most famous court jesters. They write catchy tunes with the cleverest lyrics you ever stumbled across. The problem is that once you’ve heard a song once or twice, it’s played out.
The lyrics are the thing, and when you’ve smirked a couple of times, the song is done. This album is aimed at children so it’s affably bonkers, too, but the same limitations apply.
Opener Oh You Did is one of the standouts, delivered in a singsong tone familiar to all parents and kids by guest singer Robin Goldwasser: “Don’t accidentally do things you’ll later regret / Oh no you did”.
Infractions range from “Don’t say these words to your dad / That’s he’s gross or that he smells bad” to “Don’t hammer the wall” and “Really you shouldn’t go anywhere high up and drop an egg.” The chorus is the bored words of the child promising “I swear I’ll never do it again”, while the last verse is simply Goldwasser saying: “Blah blah blah,” recognition that both parent and child know the advice will never be taken up.
They Might Be Giants are so clever they throw away jokes inside the joke song, for example rhyming “Pyramids of Gizza” and “Leaning tower of pizza”.
I Am Invisible is about being invisible, and standing right in front of your best friend and generally being unseen, along with worrying whether food is visible once eaten. Definition Of Good is one of the songs that work better for parents, such good things being clams secretly smiling at clam jokes, conversations in fake Russian accents, food that’s coloured wrong, listening to the work of Captain Beefheart and things stored in a larger version of themselves.
I Made A Mess starts off jerkily and messily, with a child saying: “Sorry I made a mess” but ends as a slick, joyous psychedelic masterpiece, the song and room both going from messy to well-ordered.
Or So I Have Read warns children (and adults) not to believe what they read on-line, such as “animals can smell your dreams” and “barber poles are found in the wild and caught in a cage,” the latter giving a clue to their target audience, hipsters in New York (with geeky kids, as So Crazy For Books shows). Elephants has the catchiness of a Sesame Street tune, and is about the dangers of building your house on an elephant migration route.
I Haven’t Seen You Forever is as applicable to adults as kids, that joy of seeing someone then realising the reason you avoided them was their annoying character traits.