They Might Be Giants: Here Come the 123s
The journey from college radio to Radio Disney may have taken two decades for They Might Be Giants, but the aesthetic transition was virtually nonexistent. John Linnell and John Flansburgh have always written songs with a childlike sense of whimsy, often incorporating educational elements from history ("James K. Polk"), biology ("Mammal"), and grammar ("I Palindrome I"). And given that 2005's Here Come the ABCs was the band's first gold album in 15 years, a sequel would be both commercially savvy and, perhaps, artistically rewarding. As their proper albums have tapered off in quality, They Might Be Giants have thrived more when throwing themselves into thematic exercises, whether recording jingles for Dunkin' Donuts or writing a tune about every city visited on a tour for 2004's Venue Songs.
Not every song on Here Come the 123s functions as edutainment--the titular numeral in "Seven" could be replaced with just about any noun and not effect the song. On one of the album's most straightforward pop songs, "One Everything," Linnell seems to have to remind himself that he's singing to children, slipping "please clean your room" in between lines apropos of nothing. But there is some actual mathematical content present that balances out the moments when the band throws out numbers seemingly just to fill a quota.
And the moods vary frequently enough, from the Leon Redbone pastiche "Number Two" to the pop-punk rush of "Eight Hundred and Thirteen Mile Car Trip," to satisfy the shorter attention spans of preschoolers or, say, middle-aged songwriters who work better with conceptual hoops to jump through.