“The best band of all time. Better than the Stones, better than the Beatles, better than Oasis, and better than Crosby, Stills & Nash.” That’s how the hip-hop artist Open Mike Eagle once described the alt-rock band They Might Be Giants—and whether or not you agree, there’s certainly something singular about the group, formed 36 years ago by John Linnell and John Flansburgh. Just look at their biggest single, the revolutionarily geeky “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” Or the theme song they wrote for Malcolm in the Middle. Or Squidward’s 11 o’clock number in the SpongeBob SquarePants Broadway musical, or their extremely dedicated fanbase.
Over the course of 20 studio albums, They Might Be Giants has weathered seismic changes in the music industry and popular sound, continuing to evolve while somehow remaining the same weird band it’s been from the beginning. The group’s latest album, I Like Fun, is one of its most sparkling works yet, and gives a few hints as to how They Might Be Giants has endured despite having once been, in Flansburgh’s words, “the most stoppable force in rock music.”
In case fans were worried They Might Be Giants might have lost its trademark sense of humor, I Like Fun starts with a track wryly titled “Let’s Get This Over With.” The next few songs flow together smoothly, each built around some sort of continuous sound, whether a wall of guitar chords or a pulsing bass line—but then the title track drops in. “I Like Fun” is filled with stops and starts, and even moments of silence, as Flansburgh waxes philosophical about waiting for a prescription to be refilled and the ups and downs of growing old. But after a sputtering introduction, the song finally blooms into a fluid melody as Flansburgh sings, “I like fun / And so do you / As we float away / So do you.” And I do.