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Music Review: 'Here Come the 1-2-3s'

They Might Be Giants

Since releasing their self-titled debut album in 1986, They Might Be Giants have been making alternative music with a quirky, chirpy sound that's perfect for the tot set. (Even families who don't know the band's work probably have sung along to their song, "Boss of Me," the opening theme for the sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle.")

Makes sense, then, that the twosome of John Flansburg and John Linnell, turned their focus to music with appeal for the whole family, starting with the release of "No!" in 2002.

In 2005, with the release of a new family record, "Here Come the A-B-Cs," TMBG struck gold, quite literally: the record sold more than 1 million copies.

This year, the group released the requisite follow-up to that disc, "Here Come the 1-2-3s," packed with 24 tracks with a numeric bent.

Kids will delight in absurd songs, like "Pirate Girls Nine" (sample lyrics: "They all shared one golden earring/And the truth is, they all stank") and "One Dozen Monkeys," a narrative tune in which an 11-year-old girl receives a delivery of, yes, one dozen monkeys (including a primate she names Larry, who can ride bikes.) The pogo-stick beat of "Eight Hundred and Thirteen Mile Car Trip" and the seemingly nonsensical "Nonagon" (a song about shapes like hexagons and octagons doing a dance called the Nonagon) will also inspire repeat play.

Most pleasing about the album is the duo's refusal to condescend to kids with repetitive melodies or lyrics. They Might Be Giants is a musical act that's always worn its Smarty Pants proudly – an example: their space-themed album, "Apollo 18," landed them a gig as Musical Ambassadors of International Space Year in 1992 – and it's pleasing to hear a group treating kids' music as a chance to be brainy, not braying.

While they'll like the lessons on numerals, parents will most appreciate the musicians' talent in creating a kid-centric album that doesn't sound like part of a mad scientist's experiment in audio-based parental irritation.

Beyond their albums, the twosome also creates a Friday Night Video Podcast for Families, available free on iTunes. The short installments feature animated versions of Flansburg and Linnell engaging in comic banter and playing videos from the "1-2-3s" album. Tune in for perfect entertainment nuggets the whole family will enjoy, by watching or subscribing to the feed on iTunes.

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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