They Might Be Giants

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No! Review

by Heather Phares

While They Might Be Giants' clever, playful melodies and lyrics make their music nearly ideal listening for kids anyway, their first children's album, No!, is one of their most dizzying and delightful in years. If Mink Car found They Might Be Giants reclaiming some of the sounds and ideas they pioneered on albums like Flood, then No! is both another step backward and forward, featuring some of their weirdest material since their left-of-center debut in 1986. Tweaked vocals, sound effects, and songwriting abound on "I Am a Grocery Bag," a stream-of-consciousness meditation that could double as the band's shopping list ("Juices, muffins, pasta, and cheese/Milk and biscuits and cocktail sauce/I am a grocery bag"); "I Am Not Your Broom," a declaration of independence from John Flansburgh's broom; and "Bed Bed Bed," an anti-lullaby that mixes stomping rock, dissonant jazz, ticking clocks, and mooing cows. At times, No! is so unusual that it recalls the work of famously weird children's artists Bruce Haack and Lucia Pamela, if they had access to modern recording equipment. Like both Haack and Pamela's best work, They Might Be Giants' music -- and No! in particular -- celebrates being different, an invaluable message for children of all ages. It's not just the album's crazy moments that make it a joy, though. "Four of Two" is another of John Linnell's charming love songs gone wrong; Flansburgh's "Lazyhead & Sleepybones" is a lullaby so adorable that it would be a shame to sleep through it. Perhaps the best thing about No! is that it never patronizes its audience -- songs like "Fibber Island," "Where Do They Make Balloons?," and, especially, the wonderfully circular "The House at the Top of the Tree" are just as good, if not better than, the material on They Might Be Giants' other albums. Ultimately, No! is one of the group's most creative albums in years, and undoubtedly one of 2002's best children's releases, because it says yes to fun and individuality.

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