Friday, February 25, 2005

Review: Here Come the ABCs - They Might Be Giants

As a follow-up to their popular and critically-acclaimed children's CD No!, Here Come the ABCs is a bit of a let-down only in comparison to such a strong disc. Part of this is probably due to the deliberate narrowing of subject matter of the new disc. How many different ways can you sing songs about the alphabet, a subject whose signature song was written by Mozart? But the relatively abstract nature of the lyrics allow TMBG to run amuck across the musical spectrum: jaunty ("E Eats Everything"), prog-rockish ("Pictures of Pandas Painting"), sometimes within the same song (the ballad/British Invasion/"Leader-of-the-Pack"-ish "D & W").

Since this CD was created with a companion DVD in mind, some of the songs ("Can You Find It?," "Letter/Not A Letter," "Letter Shapes") seem deficient without any accompanying visuals (I'll address whether or not that's actually the case in an upcoming review of the DVD). And unlike No!, which used a few songs from TMBG's "adult" career, the songs on ABCs are definitely more targeted at kids (thereby increasing the likelihood of odd stares from co-workers should you take the CD to work).

But that's not to say there aren't some standout tracks. "Alphabet Lost and Found" is a electronica-lite song about well, lost and found letters. "I C U" has some great wordplay (or, rather, letter-play). "C Is For Conifers" is a fine entry in the long TMBG tradition of educational songs and covers ("Mammal," "Meet John Ensor," "The Sun Is A Mass (Of Incandescent Gas)"). And "Q U" is just cute (or "qute," I guess).

Can I envision sneaking this off to work like I did with No!? Probably not -- it's not as strong an album in total. But if you (or your children) liked No!, there's no reason to believe you (or they) won't find Here Come the ABCs enjoyable as well.

1 comment:

Don't send me junk email said...

Well, this is why Siskel had Ebert and Ebert has "the new guy" - to offer a counter argument and not let one person's opinion get in the way of a great musical group!
TMBG has brought me back full force as a fan. "No!" was fun from the "it's cool that a band I like is playing kid songs" point of view, but "Here Come the ABCs" makes me realize that the folks from Talking Heads aren't the only band to use their Mensa capabilities.
The other analogy I want to make, and it ain't exactly on the caliber of Mensa, is that every once in awhile someone does something that makes you smile and want to support them so they'll do more. Street performers that get you to actually stop and watch based on their talent deserve a full hat of money. The Swedish Bikini team caused me to buy a case of Old Milwaukee. "Here Comes the ABCs" has made me want to see TMBG in concert - doing kids' songs.
The DVD is worth the purchase price. Don't let mr. zooglobble's mediocre write persuade you otherwise.