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Here Come the ABCs

They Might Be Giants

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Album Review

They Might Be Giants have always had a flair for educational songs. More than a decade after its release, the refrain of "Why Does the Sun Shine" ("The sun is a mass of incandescent gas/A gigantic nuclear furnace") still has a pesky way of lodging itself in the brain. And, as the band's wonderful first children's album, No!, demonstrated, They Might Be Giants' music speaks to kids in a way that few other bands' work can; they never sound like they're talking (or singing) down to their smaller fans. Here Come the ABCs makes the most of the band's ability to teach and reach children, and more than delivers on its promise to "learn ABCs the fun way!" Since this is a more educational enterprise than No! was, Here Come the ABCs is a little more straightforward and like a traditional children's album than its predecessor. Several songs, like "E Eats Everything," are more or less recitations of the alphabet, albeit with a few twists: "Z Y X" brings the album to a close with a dramatic backwards reading of the alphabet, and "The Alphabet of Nations" is a mini-atlas, spanning Algeria to Zimbabwe. This is still a They Might Be Giants album, though, and the band's catchy melodies and smart wordplay haven't been dumbed down. "Flying V," with its charming, Vince Guaraldi-like pianos and images of migrating geese and electric guitars, is another of John Linnell's seemingly effortless but brilliant songs, and "C Is for Conifers" offers an extra-credit lesson in botany as well as the alphabet. Here Come the ABCs brings personality to the alphabet's characters, with some letters sharing songs and others getting songs of their own. The bouncy "Go for G!" is an immediate kid-pleaser, while "Q U" casts these letters as pals that "make a cool sound together" — much like Linnell and Flansburgh themselves. F gets "Fake-Believe," a celebration of imagination so good that they had to include it on the album twice. Other songs are more conceptual: "Pictures of Pandas Painting," which is all about alliteration, lives up to its psychedelic title, while "Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?" gets downright meta. Amidst all the learning, there's still plenty of room for plain old fun, as shown by the squiggly synths on "Letter Shapes"; the self-explanatory "Clap Your Hands"; and "Rolling O," which celebrates the joy of making silly mouth noises with scat-like babbling. Though some of the songs feel a little incomplete without the dazzling visuals of the DVD version, Here Come the ABCs is still a delight. It might be slightly less magical than No!, but it's a far cry from a by-the-numbers (or letters) children's album.

Customer Reviews

Cross-Generational Appeal

I love this record--and so does my 15-month old. Every time she hears the opening strains of 'Here Come the ABCs" she smiles and starts dancing. I've been a fan of the Johns since their very first album and have seen them live twice. On this LP they succeed in educating their smallest fans without annoying or alienating middle-aged devotees like myself. I wish that all kids' music was this fun to listen to. Nice work, Linnell and Flans! When is the next kids' disk coming out?

Let's Hear It For The Giants!

I keep finding TMBG I don't have, and this is new to me! Love it .. much more interesting than that Baby Einstein stuff. After reading the reviews, I must say: Mr. One-Star-Pants didn't give a very interesting review and I give him ZERO stars for effort! I'd hate to read his customer comment cards at grocery stores ... "I bought some chips, they were gross", or "I read this magazine, it was stupid". C'mon Mr. 1*Pants, tell us ~why~ you didn't like it! Otherwise, what's the point in submitting a review? We were all ready to read it, and (sigh) you let us down ... now we are all sad pandas! :-(

Excellent

TMBG have done it again! "Alphabet of Nations" is a catchy song, as well as "I C U". If you like TMBG also check out Dan Zanes and These Guys Are Crazy.

Biography

Formed: 1983 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Combining a knack for infectious melodies with a quirky, bizarre sense of humor and a vaguely avant-garde aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk underground, They Might Be Giants became one of the most unlikely alternative success stories of the late '80s and early '90s. Musically, John Flansburgh and John Linnell borrowed from everywhere, but their freewheeling eclecticism was enhanced by their arcane, geeky sense of humor. The duo would reference everything from British Invasion to Tin...
Full Bio

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