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4.5 out of 5 stars108
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on May 25, 2004
This album captures the triumphant exuberance of childhood in a way that few other children's albums do. Songs such as "Fibber Island" and "Robot Parade" encourage children to exercise imagination and creativity. In "Bed, Bed, Bed," watching TV is but one of many activities in a full day that includes meeting friends, riding bikes, and playing the guitar. Even better, some of the songs are educational ("Where Do They Make Balloons?", "The Edison Museum") with the spirit of play, not lectures. But best of all, the songs have both simplicity and sophistication to their goofiness to appeal to children and older listeners alike. "Violin" and "John Lee Superstar" are good examples of this.
This album contains no bad language, violence, or encouragement of such, so most parents would not object to the material in this album. While some of the songs ("I Am Not Your Broom") may be interpreted as encouraging rebellion in children, I do not feel they are any more subversive than say, the poetry of Shel Silverstein.
The whimsical interactive sequences mostly require only that you run your mouse over the images, so children who can't click the buttons can still enjoy them. My one-year-old nephew insisted on going to listen to the CD on the computer first thing in the morning for quite a while. I also bought this album for my TMBG fan friends who were soon to be parents, and they were delighted.
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on May 12, 2003
I've been listening to the Giants for about 13 years now, loving many of their songs, feeling indifferent to some, and disliking just a few. I have always appreciated their humor and wit and felt their music already had a child-like quality with adult sophistication and musical savvy. This CD is very cute, perhaps for a VERY young child (under 4 maybe?), but I've already had my daughter appreciating songs like "Doctor Worm", "Don't Let's Start", and "Birdhouse In Your Soul" since she was quite young - songs which can already cater to adults and childeren simply because of the catchiness and quirkiness. Songs like these I'd rather expose my daughter to then most of the songs on "No!" simply because their other CDs contain much more interesting content. I don't think kids need things spelled out for them - I think it is much more interesting to let them go ahead and have a unique interpretation of things, which I have done, myself, through the years listening to They Might Be Giants.
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on February 24, 2003
Over the years, They Might Be Giants have sung about death, substance abuse, marital breakdown, insanity, paranoia, senility, paralysis, isolation and general disappointment. In that sense, their 2002 children's album NO! is a bit of a departure; musically, though, it's as hooky and weird as ever.
Singer-keyboardist John Linnell -- who has a young son -- dominates this project with an unself-conscious gusto that has clearly inspired everyone else involved. "Four of Two" is a comical, polka-flavored rocker about a guy who doesn't realize that the clock has stopped, misses his date, and awakens to a future of "flying cars and gigantic metal bugs." In the rousing title cut and "Bed Bed Bed," Linnell clearly remembers what it's like to be a kid; in the latter, he marvels over the full day he has had before he goes to sleep ("I've had my fun ... there's nothing left to do"), and in the former, he has fun with the most mundane aspects of parent-child antagonism ("'May I stay, can I go' -- 'no no no' ... 'Sit, stay, roll over' -- 'no no no'"). "The House at the Top of the Tree" is a gentle pop tune structured after "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly," albeit with an even more absurd premise (a mouse threatening to eat a house unless a dog brings him some potato chips?). In the a-cappella "I Am Not Your Broom," about a broom rebelling against its owner/master, he performs both sides of the argument, as he does in "No!" ("'What nonsense are you speaking, broom?' ... 'I'm throwing off my chains of servitude'"). The 30-second "I Am a Grocery Bag" could be an epilogue to 1990's "Dead"; dropping all refs to reincarnation, expiration dates and having been a jerk in his previous life, the narrator simply ponders his current physical state! In "Violin," Linnell lingers over words like "hippo," "mop," and "speck of dust" in various goofy voices before lapsing into a brief lesson in fractions centered around George Washington's head (don't ask). The best of the lot has to be "Sleepwalkers," a lovely mid-tempo number that sonically recalls 1996's "Your Own Worst Enemy" and 2001's "My Man," only with a complete lack of heavy themes.
Linnell's singer-guitarist bandmate John Flansburgh brings a surprising amount of sympathy and enthusiasm to this project, considering that he and his wife, singer Robin Goldwasser, have no children. "Fibber Island," with its folkish arrangement, its surreal lyrics, and a hilarious cameo (or two) by Linnell, is very similar in feel to 1988's "Cowtown"; but instead of obscure lyrics about a cow under the sea, Flansy performs a paean to the joys of making stuff up ("To get to Fibber Island, you just close your eyes, start fibbing in your mind, and see what you can find"). "John Lee Supertaster" is a funky, bluesy rocker about the joys, and peeves, of having a heightened sense of taste ("Can't drink coffee or beer ... he loves ice cream and pie"). Clap Your Hands" is little more than kid-friendly disco, with calls to "jump in the air" and "stomp your feet" instead of "do the Hustle" or "shake your booty." I know that many people vastly prefer the heavy-metal "adult version" of "Robot Parade" (originally released as an EP B-side, also available on 2002's Dial-A-Song anthology), but I still think the new, dreamier arrangement here is better suited to the futuristic-fantasy lyrics. The sweet-voiced Flansburgh also handles the disc's token lullaby, "Lazyhead and Sleepybones," in which he has fun with synonyms ("When Lazyhead says the window is closed, Sleepybones says it's shut ... And even though they should be friends, they can't get along"). It's a beauty, and possibly my second-favorite track.
Goldwasser herself guests on a cover of "In the Middle," a traffic-safety jingle the Johns remembered from their youth; it could easily have been the most indulgent track (with the sort of instructional lyrics that the Johns tried to avoid in their own compositions), but Robin's sweet delivery makes it go down easier. Nicholas Hill (who sang "I hear the wind blow..." on 1992's "Fingertips") guests on the educational and delightfully silly "Edison Museum" ("the tallest, widest, and most famous haunted mansion in New Jersey"). And Danny Weinkauf, the bassist from the great "band of Dans," is a pleasant surprise as co-writer and lead singer on "Where Do They Make Balloons?", delivering lines like "New York has tall buildings, New Jersey has its malls / Pisa has a leaning tower -- will it ever fall?" in a warm rasp over a gently catchy Beatle-esque melody. (Only "Wake Up Call," a funky little number with lyrics so minimal it should've been an instrumental, is utterly skippable.)
Bottom line: There's nothing to pick apart here, just a fun pop record that parents can enjoy with their kids, and that diehard TMBG fans may appreciate both as a change of pace and for its familiarity. If you're just getting into the Johns, and you DON'T know anyone who has children, NO! should be one of the last TMBG albums you get.
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on January 11, 2003
I compare "No!" to SpongeBob because like the show, this disc is irreverent and uncoordinated, yet it is weirdly brilliant. I purchased this for my younger brother after he got hooked on my copy of "Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants".
They Might Be Giants are well-known for taking utterly out-there ideas and running with them and "No!" makes a perfect breeding ground for them. They all have humorous ideas and most have equally entertaining CD-ROM games. My favorite song on here is the brilliant "Where Do They Make Balloons?" sung by Danny Weinkauf, one of the Band of Dans. Also worth mentioning is that Robin Goldwasser (who sung "Dr. Evil" from Austin Powers 2) returns for "In the Middle, In the Middle, In the Middle". Of course, the two Johns handle things nicely on the rest of the album, paying homage to the old lady who swallowed a fly on "The House at the Top of the Tree", their disobedient sweeper in "I Am Not Your Broom" and that wonderful word "No!". All in all, another keeper from the pair of Johns and the band of Dans.
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on June 19, 2002
When I first heard that the Johns were putting together a children's album, I immediately thought that it was really cute idea--in a weird, frightening sort of way. For starters, the picture of the kids on the CD case was really scary. They look more like bugs than children. And what kind of impact might TMBG's surreal and oftentimes abstract music have on our younger generation's naive, impressionable minds? I mean, I didn't start listening to them until I was nineteen, and look what it did to me! (Ha, ha, okay, all you TMBG fans out there, please don't shoot or maim me, I was only kidding.)
In all seriousness though, I was more than a little bit curious as to how well the album would be accepted and appreciated by its target audience--namely, four to nine-year-old children. As a college student majoring in elementary education, I have taken numerous child development and phsycology classes, and--according to my professors--the majority of children at that age are mentally unable to grasp abstract concepts--a quality that has always dominated TMBG's previous albums. I honestly began to wonder if this was going to be something more akin to Gary Larson's "There's a Hair in My Dirt!" or Shel Silverstien's "ABZ's"--both of these satires are written in the same format as children's books, but in actuality they are geared towards adults.
Well, it turns out that the Johns' new album is exactly what they said it was going to be--a children's album. Not quite what you'd expect from a rock and roll band, even a band as unique and daring as They Might be Giants . . . so grown-ups beware, this is not a children's album for adults, but an actual, genuine children's album, complete with songs about crossing the street and going to bed. Listeners who are over twelve years old might find these songs to be rather immature and maybe even downright infantile. After all, this album speaks to kids on their level with the intention to entertain and have fun, not to preach or educate. I guess that's why the children that I tutor and babysit enjoy it so much. In fact, it's the only CD they've wanted to listen to since the day I bought it. On the other hand, NO! is probably my least favorite Giant's album simply because it's too childish for my tastes. It's kind of like watching Sesame Street when I'd rather be watching the Simpsons. Sure, I enjoy watchin Oscar the Grouch as much as the next person, but there comes a point when I want move on to something thats geared towards my own age level.
The Johns' tounge-in-cheek, subtle sense of humor is still present in NO!, although the lyrics aren't quite as clever as they were on previous albums, and the music in general is much less complicated. In conclusion, the fact that TMBG has been "dumbed down" quite a bit makes this album less appealing to me as an adult, but considering the fact that this was meant to be a children's album, I feel that John and John were completely justified in simiplifying both the instrumentation and the lyrics. And when I see the kids I tutor happily singing in unison, "Electric cars, electric trains, here comes a robot with electric brains!" I can't help but think that TMBG has created something that is truly wonderful. So, just remind yourself that this is a children's album, enjoy the music, sing along, and let the kids have their fun.
The only REAL gripe I have about this album is the fact that they didn't include 'monsters of mud.' I absolutely love that song, but they have yet to release it on a disk. Oh well, perhaps next time. :)
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on June 18, 2002
No! is a great kids album. I have all their cds, and even though i'm 11, this is still a great album. They don't have to be Raffi with songs about cute whales, but they have to be Johns, with songs about grocery bags and hippos.Great animations also!
1.FIBBER ISLAND
A good opening. Almost like a folk song.One of the best kids songs about imagination. One of the best flash games also on the
CD.
2. FOUR OF TWO
Another good {yet older} song. TMBG can sing about loving girls and dating, while still making it appropiate {and a bit confusing when they sing about bugs and flying cars} for kids. Great song.
3. ROBOT PARADE
On the "Working Undercover For The Man" they had an hard rock, fast version of this song. On No! it's softer, and more understandable, even though the game gets boring.
4. NO!
The title track. You get to change No blocks to Yes blocks! A good use of electric guitars.{!}
5. WHERE DO THEY MAKE BALLOONS?
One of the best. Sung by their drummer, I think, this song teaches about other countries and their products while asking the age-old question, "Where DO they make balloons?"
6.IN THE MIDDLE, IN THE MIDDLE, IN THE MIDDLE
An old cheesy 60's song, I think. Sorta dull.
7.VIOLIN
Even though the songs consists of the words "Violin-lin-lin","Hippo", "Mop!" and "Speck of dus-dus-dust" and a fraction lesson using George Washington's head {You'll get a presidential surprise!}, it is one of the best songs on the album.
8.JOHN LEE SUPERTASTER
My personal favorite. A rocking tune about a guy that is a supertaster. Has a hilarious intro by John Flansburgh.
9.EDISON MUSEUM
Originally on "Long Tall Weekend", this is still a great, spooky, educational song.The flash thing has the ghost of Thomas Alva telling you about phonographs and stuff.
10.HOUSE AT THE TOP OF THE TREE
My 2nd favorite, and the best game, where you try to save a treehouse by feeding a disturbing,fat mouse thats eating the house. If you dont feed him, the house falls down. The creepy little guy still pops his head out the window and waves at you.
The next four songs are all under one minute long, and, in my opinion, the worst. Anyway, CLAP YOUR HANDS makes you want to dance, I AM NOT YOUR BROOM is about what happens when your broom runs away, while the WAKE UP CALL song is a bit boring because the only words are Bo Bo Do Bo Bo. I AM A GROCERY BAG is about half a minute long, but you get to play with food in the interactive thing.
The last three songs are about sleeping and lullabies. LAZYHEAD AND SLEEPYBONES is a rather beautiful song that can actually somehom make you fall asleep. BED BED BED is a fast, energetic Beastles-esque type song about...you guessed it, BED!
And SLEEPWALKERS is a med-tempo song about people who roam across the nation while they sleep.
In all, this is a good album and I recommend it to everyone.
{Try to find the bonus song on the CD-ROM!!}
-Thomas Neufeld
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on June 18, 2002
This CD is a lot of fun, but a bit too short. My kids love it. They loved their first disc and "Flood", as well--a couple of lifelong fans in the making). When "In the Middle" came on I was overwhelmed with my own childhood memories of watching television in NY in the '60s--this song was from a public service ad on traffic safety for kids. The graphics featured two cartoon kids in safari outfits along with a friendly looking lion at a traffic light. From what I remember of the tune this CD version is a spot-on remake. Where they dug it, who knows? By the way, the song is credited to Vic Mizzy, composer of "The Addams Family", "Green Acres" and other TV theme music. My kids had a blast discovering the CD-ROM enhancements. Overall, the CD is a mix of good catchy tunes and off the wall "pieces"--a fun time all around. Listen with your kids!
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on June 1, 2003
Most of these songs could have been on Apollo 18 (my favorite TMBG album by a landslide), but they would have been the weak titles on the CD.
I found several of the songs to have jarring, dissonant vibes to them which I'd have to imagine would not appeal to youngsters.
A favorite was "Where do they make balloons", which sounds a little as if the Monkees were invited to add a track to "Revolver". That is certainly one any child will enjoy and any parent could hum along to .. well, at least a few times.
I'll come back to my love of Apollo 18. That is a better children's CD than this one... in part because it has dozens of very short songs that are silly and appealing in a Sendak vein (or quickly over). There is not a child's song on "NO!" which compares to "Mammal" or "Dinner Bell" from that collection.
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on July 21, 2003
I got this originally for my daughter, but have bought additional copies for family and friends because once you hear it, you may never be able to get these tunes out of your head. Listen to it on the way to work, and you will be speaking to everyone to the tune of "Violin" and singing robot parade in a really annoying voice. With that said, I love this album even after hearing it at least 274 times on a recent road trip through the desert (four-year olds have a thing for repetition). Finally--a kids' album that does not insult their intelligence or their parents' ears. I don't know who loves this album more, my daughter, my husband, or me. The enhancements are a great bonus and very little kid friendly without being stupid. This album definitely grows on you. . .
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on March 26, 2003
Instead of getting sick of hearing it over and over, like we do with most kids' music, NO! is growing on all of us! This morning on our way to school, my 2 year in my backpack carrier, she warbled in my ear, "there are no more potato chips left, in the empty bag in your hand, and the crumpling sound of the empty bag, makes the mice get mad, and when the mice get mad, it leads to a plan to eat the house..." This is our kids fav, and OUR fav kids' CD. We all find ourselves bursting into these songs, often with modified lyrics, many times throughout the day. One caveat: if you are very literal and not interested in nonsense, this CD will drive you nuts. Our family is all about nonsense and silliness, so it seems as if it were created just for us!
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