Not Just Kids Music
Rocking nonstop since the ’80s would take a toll on a lesser band. But in Nanobots, the 16th studio album from They Might Be Giants, TMBG finds themselves with the same flair for the upbeat and nonsensical. There isn’t much new ground covered on the album – they stick with what works for them, but it still feels strong and fresh thanks to their creative goofballery. Over the last ten years, the band has found success composing children’s music and interestingly, many of the songs on Nanobots sound as though they could have made the cut for Here Comes the Abcs, Here Comes the 123s and Here Comes Science.
Take for example the song “Tesla.” With lyrics such as, “Tesla/Brought the x-ray photo to the world/Brought the AC power to the wall.” It’s almost an indie rock version of The Wiggles but is so utterly charming that it comes across as silly and funny as opposed to just kid’s stuff. Their comic absurdity is on full view in “9 Secret Steps” with the lyrics, “Throw away the thing that tells you / Not to throw the thing away / You’ll forget to rue the day / You went ahead and threw the thing away.” Sung against a pretty harmony it sounds wistful and childlike. TMBG’s other full length songs on the album follow a similar formula – silly lyrics, heartfelt vocals, and a backdrop of upbeat guitar work. Of particular mention are album opener “You’re on Fire,” and “Nanobots,” (another geeky educational romp).
While the entirety of Nanobots is a 25 track listing, most all of the songs are under 3 minutes with a handful further pushing the envelope at under 1 minute. Almost like the album’s namesake, the short bursts of songs immediately draw you on board before exploding into the next. It gives Nanobots consistency and keeps you wanting more.
Nanobots is by no means a departure for TMBG, but it is consistent with their body of work as a whole. It doesn’t take fans in new directions but offers everyone listening (kids too!), a good time.