Yes, They Might be Giants are still going, and with their second album of the year, (the eighteenth of their career) it’s clear that 30 years into their career they are by no means short of creative impetus. While they may not have the same draw in the UK as Stateside, their cult status is more than deserved: along the way, they’ve picked up a couple of Grammy awards, they’ve released a slew of quirky ‘educational’ albums geared toward the younger generation, and not so long ago, revived the ‘dial-a-song’ service they ran in the 80s
As anyone even vaguely familiar with the band will know (people of a certain age will remember ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’), quirky indie is the duo’s specialism, and ‘Why?’ finds them working to their strengths.
Within the simple title – a favourite word of children and the bane of many parents’ lives – lies an implicit curiosity about the world, and many of the songs focus on the kind of quaint details that make life a thing of wonder. With sing-song melodies and an irrepressible sense of fun and playfulness at the fore of both the tunes and the lyrics, it’s both fun and nerdy.
The breezy alt-rock of ‘Omnicorn’, which contains the line ‘the omnicorn… even rarer than the unicorn’ shows that even now, they’re not taking themselves or anything else too seriously, and there’s an abundance of daft wordplay: the album’s first track, ‘Oh You Did’ finds the word ‘hapkin’ used in place of ‘happen’ in order to rhyme with ‘napkin’.
At times sounding like an edu-play-tional collection, (‘And Mom and Kid’ simply but succinctly explains that there are infinite permutations of families beyond the traditional nuclear family, while ‘Elephants’ is a song about an elephant migration path), they also manage to throw in references to Captain Beefheart and other less child-friendly citations – although throughout, it’s good clean fun. It’s their ability to draw so widely, not only in terms of references and topics, but musical styles, and to do so with unstinting irreverence, which makes ‘Why?’ a source of pleasure.
They Might Be Giants Online