Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
vovat

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John and John Saw That Number

Hey, I got Here Come the 123s (the new They Might Be Giants kids' album, for those of you who just wandered in) in the mail today! I think I'll actually watch the DVD first and comment as I go, then listen to the album and add in any observations I might have missed the first time around. I'll probably only mention the visuals in cases where they're particularly interesting.


Here Come The 123s! - I appreciate that the opening track is similar to that for Here Come the ABCs, but not exactly the same. I think it might have looked better if they'd put hyphens in between the digits in "123s," but then I guess we wouldn't have had the robotic voice in the podcasts calling it "Here Comes the One Hundred Twenty-Threes." Oh, and I love Puppet John Linnell's confusion at Puppet John Flansburgh's use of the word "integers."

Zeros - The song and the video are both pretty average, but I do like that red quilted owl. Is Hannah Levine the daughter of trombonist Dan Levine? I mean, I'm sure "Levine" is a pretty common name, especially in New York, but it would make sense, especially considering that he shows up on "High Five."

One Everything - I like this one (no pun intended). It's catchy, with some typical TMBG-ish wordplay, and the question as to whether there's anything outside the universe. The seemingly random insertion of the line "please clean your room" is amusing as well. That monster in the video is pretty weird. He looks kind of like a Playmobil figure or something.

Number Two - I don't think TMBG has any other songs in this style (not sure what you'd call it, but it's sort of jazzy), so that's cool. The credits say that Danny Weinkauf wrote it, so I would assume he sings it as well. Not as good as "Where Do They Make Balloons?", but still quite enjoyable. I know the monkey is part of the Deeply Felt Puppet Theater, but I forget what his name is. I'll look it up before I post this review. Okay, it's Jebediah Deeply.

Triops Has Three Eyes - I think it's getting to the point where there's a somewhat generic sound to a lot of these educational TMBG songs, and this one fits into that category, but I do quite like the "one that looks up, and one that looks around" section. I do have to wonder how a tricycle "has one more cycle than the washing machine," though. Wash, rinse, and spin. That's three, right? Anyway, regarding the video, the Li'l Johns comic book was amusing. From what I've found on the Internet, the triops (otherwise known as tadpole shrimp) doesn't really look much like the one in the cartoon, but I guess there's about as much resemblance as there is between, say Mickey and an actual mouse, or Taz and a real Tasmanian devil.

Apartment Four - I appreciate that they're presenting these songs in numerical order, although starting with the theme and "Zeros" means that none of them are actually on the track that corresponds to the number. This one, for instance, is actually Track 6. Oh, well. Actually, that reminds me of an idea I've had for some time for a mix CD, with each track having the corresponding number in the title. But I digress. This song is really short, and even more generic in sound than the last one. It's not bad, though. This video continues with the weird creatures that don't look much like anything in nature, this time with the starring puppets. One of them appears to be wearing an eggshell.

High Five! - "Alphabet Lost And Found," Marty Beller's writing and singing contribution to ABCs, is one of the better tracks on that album. I can't say the same for his number-related song, but hey, at least it's fun. Puppet Flans's "Can you hear me now?" was funny, but I'm not sure it will age well.

The Secret Life Of Six - You know, I actually don't make my nines so that they look like upside-down sixes. I still like the idea for the song, though, and I enjoy the goofy voices. The animation in this one has an Island of Misfit Toys feel to it, especially at the beginning with the ant and the balls.

Sevens - Sort of along the lines of "E Eats Everything," this is more surreal in its lyrics than the preceding songs, presenting sevens as cake-loving kids. One of the voices is provided by Linnell's son Henry. One oddity about the video is that one of the sevens refers to "the green house at the end of the block," yet, when we see the outside of the house, it isn't green.

Seven Days Of The Week (I Never Go To Work) - This was a bonus on the Best Buy version of ABCs, but it fits better here, since they can tie it into the number of days in a week. It amuses me that the boss is a rhinoceros, but he appears to be breaking some child labor laws.

Figure Eight - I didn't like this one so much at first, but I started liking it a little better as it went on. The chorus and guitar solo are pretty cool, but the verses less so. It feels a bit long, but that's probably largely because so many of the other tracks are so short, and there are a few false stops.

Pirate Girls Nine - Those are some pretty bizarre accents, especially Linnell's. The song is brief, but has some funny bits to it.

Nine Bowls Of Soup - While a lot of the songs here have a Sesame Street vibe to them, I think this one in particular feels like it could have easily appeared on an old-school Sesame Street episode. It also incorporates an ichthyosaur that can move around on land, and soup bowls used to contact aliens.

Ten Mississippi - I think Robin Goldwasser has an awesome voice, but she often seems to get stuck singing songs that aren't particularly good (see also: "Pretty Fly" and "Who Put The Alphabet In Alphabetical Order?"). Really, this song is so slight that I can't think of anything else to say about it.

One Dozen Monkeys - What is it with monkeys appearing in sets of twelve? I like that this one sounds a little different, with Hannah Levine singing the lead vocal.

Eight Hundred And Thirteen Mile Car Trip - I appreciate the switch to guitar-heavy rock for this song, but there really isn't that much to it. I wonder if there's any significance to the number of miles, or if it was just random.

Infinity - What, no video for this one? That's a shame, since, based on my first listen, I like it. It was co-written by Dan Miller and Robert Sharenow, and while I have no idea who the latter is, his name is appropriate for a children's project. {g} I wonder if Dan sings on it, too.

I Can Add - I like the xylophone and the Spanish verse. Also cool is the animation of the addition problems.

Nonagon - This is one of the better songs on here. And I don't think I knew what a nonagon was until fifth grade or so, so anyone in the actual target age range listening to this is going to have a head start on me in that respect. For that matter, I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard of a triops until today.

Even Numbers - I guess this one is good from an educational perspective, since it gives a good overview as to what an even number is, but I don't think it has that much to offer musically. I guess it's not bad, just kind of forgettable.

Ooh La! Ooh La! - This is definitely different, which is a good thing, I suppose. While Robin isn't credited for vocals on this song, I think the female vocals sound like her.

The Heart Of The Band - From the video, I'm guessing that this is another song from Higglytown Heroes, which I've never watched.

Hot Dog! and The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme - I get the feeling that these Mickey Mouse Clubhouse songs are intended for even younger audiences than the other songs on here. Seen in that context, I suppose they're appropriate. I do have to say that the three-dimensional animation for traditional Disney characters looks weird. I feel the same way about that Winnie-the-Pooh show with the computer-animated characters.

One Two Three Four - This is a bonus track on the Amazon version of the CD, but if you got a version that doesn't have it, I wouldn't be too disappointed. It's not that great. I guess I'm still glad I have it, though, what with my completist mentality.

John Lee Supertaster - This is the same version of the song that they included in the Almanac compilation a few years ago.

Bed, Bed, Bed - This has the same slow arrangement as the Kimya Dawson version. I would have preferred the fast version, since they really get into the sound effects when performing it live, but it's nice to have a recording of Linnell singing the slow one.


Like ABCs, the songs on this album aren't among TMBG's best work, but would anyone expect them to be? For educational songs intended to teach kids letters and numbers, they manage to work in a lot of the band's typical humor and charm. I do think that, compared to the previous children's albums, this one seems less experimental, but also more consistent.
Tags: albums, tmbg
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