They Might Be Giants | No! (Rounder/Idlewild)

cd tmbgWhen I do have kids one day, I don’t want them listening to some modern Barney singing about wanting ice cream and how we can all be friends if we just get along.

 

Call me a kid at heart, but there is something great about an art-punk band writing original songs for little kids. I mean, I’m not a parent, I don’t babysit, I don’t have any real reason to own a children’s record, but when I do have kids one day, I don’t want them listening to some modern Barney singing about wanting ice cream and how we can all be friends if we just get along. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but creativity is something that I would want to harness, and I think that it is important to remember we were all kids once so we know that what is cool and interesting isn’t always what people are buying.

Among the younger set, They Might Be Giants might be best known for the Malcolm in the Middle theme song. While many will never get the excitement TMBG can inspire, there are a ton of people like me who will always have a soft spot for the guys, and believe that their oddities only make them more interesting. The 2003 documentary Gigantic provided more information about the band, allowing a whole new audience to experience their special nature. Not just another ’80s alt-art-punk creation, They Might Be Giants always had an interesting twist, from Dial-a-Song to using an accordion.

No! was great then, and it still is now. With lyrics that every kid thinks, but never gets to say, the title track is perfect for every little kid to hear. They Might Be Giants have tapped into something that doesn’t seem corny, or that would make an adult cringe at having to listen to on repeat: “No is always no/ If they say no, it means a thousand times no/ No plus no equals no/ All no’s lead to no, no, no/ Finger pointing, eyebrows low/ Mouth in the shape of the letter O/ Pardon Me, no/ Excuse me, no.” The benefit for parents here is clear as the child gets a better understanding of what no means, but the child gets to poke fun at the fact that it seems like every other word is no. With such a great album title and a great track, TMBG clearly understand what it means to care for a little one.

Other tracks on the album teach children to ask questions, to question reality in itself and the seriousness of everyday issues. No! teaches children not only factual information, like where jam came from, but also subconsciously shows them a solid musical reference from which to build. From what I heard on my niece’s musical list, most children’s albums seem to be simple: a few chords, a drum machine, and basic musical comprehension. Children are often exposed to music that does nothing more than entertain. No!, however, blends quality lyrics and entertaining music. There is nothing simple about most of the tracks, which sound more like art recordings for children—perhaps a better form of Baby Einstein, or in this case Mozart—but at the same time, they do contain that perky quality that all children seem to appreciate. This is something the band has managed to sustain throughout its career.

While I would not support the idea of a children’s album from most of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants has always had a playful quality. From their early beginning playing basements in New York, to as recently as 2011’s Join Us, the duo has never failed to be original, and has never been easily comparable. They are a creation all their own, unique and talented. If you are a parent, if you know a parent, or if you are going to be a parent, buy No!—and all of TMBG’s other children’s albums. It is something that you can’t just recreate, even if you tried. | Alex Hodschayan

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