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Music The Communists Have the Music and other Giant gems sparkle

They Might Be Giants
Barbican, London


THEY might be responsible for influencing some of the most excruciatingly whiny pop-punk purveyors of the 1990s — Green Day, the Offspring, Blink 182 and Barenaked Ladies — but some groups of that ilk are just about good enough to get away with it. Weezer are one and They Might Be Giants are another.

It’s slightly odd to see the latter, best known for the 1989 hit Birdhouse In Your Soul, in the rarified confines of the Barbican’s main hall. But with an expanded line-up, including trumpeter Curt Ramm, the acoustics of the space serve the iconic group well.


Fantastic rhythm section aside, the Giants are primarily the dynamic duo of guitarist-singer John Flansburgh and singer-multi-instrumentalist John Linnell — both equally “leaders,” although the former provides more comic relief — and both as nasal in their delivery as the other.


With their 20th studio album I Like Fun released earlier this year, it’s as well that they perform two full sets, as diehard fans would surely not appreciate merely a showcase of their latest.


They launch into their most recent single The Communists Have the Music, which is as catchy as they come — “I don’t need a rationale/To sing the Internationale” — and it sets the tone for the two-plus hours of tunes. Other highlights include Let’s Get It Over With off their last album and the brilliant, accordion-driven She’s An Angel from their debut LP.


Of course they slip in Birdhouse In Your Soul, so subtly in the middle of the first half that the audience are suddenly on their feet. Rather than have that as the finale they instead opt for a live fade out of Hey Mr DJ. There’s also a wonderfully brassy rendition of Istanbul after the interval that has the audience up again.


There are certainly moments of corniness but the band’s effortless skill in honing a catchy pop tune, along with their quirky sense of humour and jazzy instrumentation, will ensure that they might be around for a whole lot longer.


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