on November 14, 2003
Our 2 boys (3 and 7) are big TMBG fans. They love No!, saw the children's show in NYC last spring, and enjoy all the songs on Dial-A-Song CDs. Our TiVo recorded TMBG on Conan when they performed No!/Clap Your Hands - we haven't deleted yet and it's still frequently requested (and danced to!).
So needless to say, when we heard about Bed, Bed, Bed we were very excited - and we weren't disappointed! The kids aside, I really love "Impossible" - a great song and wonderfully illustrated in the book. This book and CD are now part of our bed time routine. The songs are perfectly ordered to get things slowed down and everyone ready for slumber (except last night when our 3 year old couldn't stop dancing - note to self: no more chocolate milk at dinner!).
We highly recommend this book/CD and have already picked it out for several holiday gifts.
I love They Might Be Giants. I love love love them. I've been listening to their music for more than 15 years, and it's been very exciting to hear their music evolve over that time.
Their foray into the world of children's entertainment has been exciting for me, since I'm a children's-book junkie. But while I think the "No!" family CD hits the mark, the Johns' "children's book," "Bed Bed Bed" is a bit off.
The design and illustrations are beautiful, of course. TMBG is known for their cutting-edge taste in designers almost as much as for their music, and so the design and illustrations of the book are bound to catch a child's attention and hold it for a bit.
The text of the book, however, is just song lyrics, and I'm of the opinion that song lyrics generally don't make good reading -- without the music, at least half (if not more) of the experience is missing. And TMBG lyrics are so typically strange, you really do need the music to complete the context.
Of course, the book was meant to be read along with the enclosed four-song CD, and I do think the book is rather pointless without the CD. I take issue, however, with the recasting of the book's title song as a "lullaby." This plodding, tuneless version of the song would put anybody to sleep, in the hope of getting away from Kimya Dawson's monotonous voice. They may have done better to kick off the book and CD with the march-like, sound-effects studded version of "Bed Bed Bed" as it's featured on the "No!" album, and saved the floating, lovely "Idlewild" for the closing lullaby.
Last week I attended one of TMBG's "family concerts," and it was pretty clear that the "No!" album is building a very young sector in the TMBG listening audience. There's a lot to love about the "No!" disc, with its upbeat songs and fun animations. The "Bed Bed Bed" book and CD, while a beautiful package, is less accessible. I do hope the Johns will give children's publishing another shot!
on April 16, 2004
Here's the routine: jammies, brush and floss, Bed Bed Bed, lights out. Every night, like clockwork. In fact, the only way I can get her to stop fooling around with the toothbrush is to say, "Let's go listen to Bed, Bed, Bed!" And she hops down from her stool and runs on tiptoes to her room shouting "BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED BED!" When I start the CD, she alternates between studying the pictures in the book very carefully and dancing wildly. She calms down a bit at Idylwild (her favorite song?), and at the end of the fourth song she says "Night night time" and curls up with her pillow and doll. THAT'S IT! Is that amazing or what! Yeah, I'm a TMBG fan, but this CD/book isn't about me and my interest in TMBG, it's not about being a great work of art, it's about the MIRACLE of getting my daughter to go to bed without a fuss.
on January 9, 2004
I've been a fan of the Brooklyn-based musical duo They Might Be Giants for a little over a year, ever since I received a copy of Dial-A-Song, a 2-CD anthology pulling together 52 tracks from their 20-year career, as an early Christmas present in 2002. I immediately fell in love with their unique brand of witty, intelligent, and eclectic alternative-pop, and over the course of 2003 I collected as much of their work as I could -- studio albums, solo records, a rarities collection, a live album, a DVD of their videos, a recent documentary about them (2003's Gigantic), and even their 2002 children's album NO!
Which brings me to their first book, Bed Bed Bed. As with the NO! album, since I'm in my mid-'20s and I don't have kids myself, it's easier for me to look at this book in terms of TMBG product rather than in terms of kid-friendly product. That said, it's an impressive product even by TMBG's typically high standards. I've lately noticed a kiddie-lit trend wherein popular songs (such as "I Hope You Dance") are simply made into books, but TMBG have gone beyond that. In addition to putting the NO! track "Bed Bed Bed" into storybook form, they've written three story-songs exclusively for the purpose of this project. (These four stories, which TMBG have set to music and put on a disc that comes with this book, will be discussed in detail below.) The illustrations by Canadian artist Marcel Dzama are quirky and strangely beautiful, like much of TMBG's music.
Here are the story-songs, in the order that they are presented in the book and on the disc:
1) "Impossible" -- This story offers the inspiring message that you can become whatever you want if you believe in yourself. The song is an upbeat synth-pop number mostly sung by TMBG's keyboard/accordion-player John Linnell in his distinctive nasal twang. Guitar-playing bandmate John Flansburgh puts on a Paul McCartney-esque British accent to sing one of the later verses, and Flansburgh's wife Robin Goldwasser (who sang "In the Middle" on NO!) lends her sweet vocals to another verse.
2) "Happy Doesn't Have to Have an Ending" -- This just a fun story about a "long-haired hippie kitten" spreading a message of love and encouraging people to enjoy life. The song has Flansburgh showing off his funky side (not unlike the NO! tracks "John Lee Supertaster" and "Clap Your Hands"), with touches of hip-hop in the intro and outro.
3) "Idlewild" -- The story is a "dream of a perfect day" (as Flansburgh once put it) that involves going to a carnival and taking a ride on a skywriting plane. The song is a beautiful, mellow folk-pop number sung by the versatile, sweet-voiced Flansburgh.
4) "Bed, Bed, Bed, Bed, Bed" -- In this story, a tired-but-happy kid marvels over the full day he (or she) has had before turning in for the night. Originally a bouncy, Beatle-esque number sung by Linnell on NO!, the tune has been radically reworked into a ballad and is now sung by Kimya Dawson (of Moldy Peaches fame); her appropriately sleepy vocals are a sweet surprise.
Overall, the whole package is incredibly sweet (even the "about the authors" piece), and it's clear that a lot of care went into it. Kudos to everyone involved -- especially Flansburgh and Goldwasser, who don't have any children themselves but still bring as much enthusiasm to this project as they brought to the NO! album. (Linnell has a son, to whom the book is dedicated.) Even though I'm not exactly in the target audience for Bed Bed Bed, I find this project to be very much in line with They Might Be Giants' friendly and creative spirit.
on April 21, 2006
I've been a They Might Be Giants fan for several years and I am about to become a teacher, so I have been perusing many children's books lately and decided to check out Bed Bed Bed.
I listened to the book with the CD and the thing that stuck out at me the most about this book was the pacing. "Impossible" is the longest song, but all its lyrics are crammed into two spreads. While listening, I found myself becoming bored looking at those pages so long. At that point, the book just seemed like a decorated lyrics page.
"Happy Doesn't Have to Have an Ending", though only 3 spreads (including the title page), was much better paced because of its fast tempo.
"Idlewild"'s three spreads were perfect, since it was a short song with few words.
However, "Bed Bed Bed" was a whopping 11 spreads long, even though its time length was just a bit shorter than "Impossible". I know it's the title song and should probably have more emphasis, but in this case, it meant that I had to flip through one line pages so quickly that I didn't even have time to glimpse at the pictures if I wanted to keep up with the song! I would have much rather had more images of the shape-shifting imaginary creatures in "Impossible" than individual pictures of kids doing things like brushing their teeth and sitting around.
I got this book thinking that it would potentially make a unique addition for a listening center in my classroom, but if I had such a hard time keeping up with the book, I imagine my students would be even more frustrated.
If only a few changes were made, this book would be much better, but for now, if I want a visual representation of They Might Be Giant's kid songs, I'll stick to Here Come the ABC's.
on March 31, 2004
Many of us Giants fans are now introducing John's and John's genius to our children. Their new crop of kid friendly products is just what we need to bring our progeny into the fold. The CD has some "kiddy" versions of NO songs and some other ditties, all good. My daughter loves the book! It delivers as a bed time read. Just weird enough, just hypnotizing enough.
on November 13, 2003
I am an embarrassingly huge, long-time TMBG fan with a little kid who is a recent convert, so I bought a few copies of Bed, Bed, Bed in advance of release. I think Marcel Dzama's illustrations are gorgeous and the songs are fun, but now that I have looked at it once, I feel like it is more something to have than to read. The book is done extraordinarily well, so I am pleased to own it. I almost wish, though, that rather than going for elegance, TMBG had taken the route of the NO! disk and website and made the book zany, over-the-top fun (pop-ups, flaps, dials, push sounds...whatever). Even if that had made it a bit more expensive, I think it would have been truer to the Giants' experience and would have made it nightly reading at our house. I hope the guys go for it again in the future. I'll be first in line.
on November 18, 2003
I married a rabid They Might Be Giants fan, and it took me awhile to appreciate the music. However, I will say I love No! and Bed, Bed, Bed. My 3-year-old son loves it too. He flips through the Bed,Bed, Bed book over and over again while listening to his "Gaints." He loves how crazy and fanciful the whole thing is. I mean who else writes a song about a hippie cat who writes valentines. We can't help but all dance to it, but by the time the cd ends, our boy is settled in with his curtains drawn ready for bed. I think the more times you read and listen to the book, the more you come to appreciate it.
on November 13, 2003
I've been a fan since about 1987 so it's great to see TMBG appealing to the "next generation." I took my 4 1/2 yr old daughter to see them last weekend and we bought the book/cd. She LOVES it--likes to look at the pictures while she listens to it, but sometimes we all just dance. I can't get the songs out of my head, either. When we listen to it at night we skip the second song because it's just too rockin' but the drawings are great and it's a good value--4 songs plus a book for the price of a book alone. Can't beat that!
on March 23, 2004
My 3 1/2 year old son LOVES this book and cd! We listen to the cd while following along with the book at least twice every night. And being a huge TMBG fan myself, I will never get tired of it. My son was initiated into the world of TMBG with "No!" so we HAD to have Bed Bed Bed when it came out. Thank you Johns!!!!!