Big Fun

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Big Fun sounds like a final project at the They Might be Giants fantasy camp. It's not, but Ted Blanks and Ross Harman -- known collectively as the Gaskets -- have made a record as wry, poppy, and naïve as such an assignment would need to be if it expected an A+. Working mainly with a jumble of drum machines and synthesizers (guitar and piano wink in the margins), the Gaskets build ditties infused with humor and melody, drawing on the Giants' idiosyncratic early work but also reflecting types like Weird Al, MC Paul Barman, Atom & His Package, and even a pre-porn and cynicism Ween. "Open Mic Nite" relates how tough it can be for a couple of high-school kids making "music out of a machine" to make an impression at the titular local music slugfest; "This Is Your Proverbial Life" features an irresistible faux hip-hop bump backing up the singsong of lines like "Whatever floats your boat/Whatever tickles your pickle/Whatever lights your fire/Will melt your sickle." "High Five Club" finds a lofty, five-fingered tonic for the world's ills (and does some blue-light special disco body-rocking in the process), while "I Don't Have to Work Tomorrow (Woo Hoo!)" updates Office Space and the Vogues' "Five O'Clock World" with a gleeful gang chorus, crackly distortion over chintzy push-button percussion, and a couplet every cube farm dweller can sympathize with. "Why can't I have an office with some walls?," Blanks asks. "Sendin' off a cartoon e-mail/If he knew about it now/The boss would have my balls." His gripe also gets at what's so great about Big Fun. While it has its moments of amateurism, the Gaskets infuse every inch of their debut with enthusiasm and a jokey shuffle that's refreshingly genuine and entirely universal. Oh, and "Arthur" is a much better genius homeless guy song than "Mr. Wendal."

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