Where would kids music be without Belinda Miller and Hova Najarian, the hosts of the Greasy Kid Stuff radio show? Oh, sure, the greater arc of kids music would be unchanged -- Laurie Berkner, Ralph's World, Justin Roberts, Dan Zanes -- those folks would still be popular had Greasy Kid Stuff not aired starting in 1995. Belinda and Hova were never against mainstream "kids music" -- they just didn't have as much interest in it. By not making those artists the focus of their show, what they've done is expand (or re-expand) the notion of what music for kids might mean. Greasy Kid Stuff 3: Even More Songs From Inside the Radio, just like its predecessor volumes 1 and 2 (review here) successfully mixes the rock with the silly, the (semi-)famous with the obscure, and produces another near-perfect mixtape. Just take the first three songs -- a theme song from fans They Might Be Giants to the incredible (and incredibly wordy) track from the late Logan Whitehurst "Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle" to Bubble's slightly off-kilter cover of "Pure Imagination." And so on. I hesitate to recommend specific songs because then you'll just go and download the best ones, and to appreciate what they're doing here you should listen to the whole thing. Really, I never would have thought that a cover (with new lyrics) of Burt Bacharach's theme for The Blob would make a good kids song, and I would've been totally wrong, because Guy Klucevsek's accordion-fueled version is perfect. Kids ages 4 through 10 (and really, a lot older) will appreciate the songs here. You can listen to samples from the 32-minute album here. If anything has changed in the five years since the last compilation came out it's that a lot more people are making more idiosyncratic kids music. So while you have a repeat appearance from TMBG, you also have Captain Bogg & Salty and Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke making appearances as do John Upchurch and Mark Greenberg, creators of the great John and Mark's Children's Album, albeit in their format guise as members of The Coctails. If Belinda and Hova are playing more "kids music" on their radio show these days, it's in part because kids music has moved in their direction. Greasy Kid Stuff 3 is a small sliver of this vibrant genre with a lot of other fun songs mixed in. Recommended.
As noted earlier, Greasy Kid Stuff will have a third compilation of songs from their radio show out this fall, and once again, it promises to be a voyage of discovery. I mean, I'm used to knowing most of the bands on kids' compilations, but Vol. 3 is again a mix of familiar names (TMBG, Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, Captain Bogg & Salty), familiar in name only (sorry, I've never actually gotten around to listening to Logan Whitehurst), and huh (Gloria Balsam, though I've done some research on this one, and, boy, is it a doozy). That's the beauty of Belinda's and Hova's show -- they really dig up some nuggets, so I'm looking forward to all that stuff I've never even heard of (to borrow a Cake cadence). Greasy Kid Stuff 3: Even MORE Songs From Inside The Radio is out September 15 on Confidential Recordings. Track listing after the jump.
Remember last week when I begged residents up and down the West Coast for video of Elizabeth Mitchell performing on her kids music swing up the coast? Well, I'd completely forgotten she was also playing the Greasy Kid Stuff -curated Tiny TBA Festival in Portland. And luckily, Beth Blenz-Clucas was on the case. Thanks, Beth! I totally want to learn that violin part. Elizabeth Mitchell - "What Goes On" (Live)
Would I be here on the web without Greasy Kid Stuff? Yeah, probably. Would anybody care? Well, I'm not so sure. Way back in 1995, when Belinda Miller and Hova Najarian started their weekly Saturday-morning "Greasy Kid Stuff" broadcast on WFMU in the New York area, there may have been a number of kids' music shows on the radio, but none were doing what Belinda and Hova did. Sure, they played "kids' music" (cartoon theme songs, the Chipmunks, and a Sesame Street song made their appearance on a randomly-selected playlist from November 1997). But they also re-appropriated kids' songs played byadult artists (Elvis Presley, the Mr. T Experience and Tanya Donnelly/Juliana Hatfield on that same broadcast) and, even more subversively, artists and songs that had never been anywhere near a kids' show. It wasn't just Jonathan Richman -- it was the Phantom Surfers, the Go-Nuts, and Yo La Tengo. In 2002, Belinda and Hova compiled their first Greasy Kid Stuff collection, filled with their broadcast's most popular songs from 7 years of Saturday-morning radio shows. This collection has a very goofy vibe to it that owes as much of its energy to Dr. Demento as it does 120 Minutes. Finding out from the liner notes that the very odd "There's a New Sound (The Sound of Worms)" was "without a doubt the most-requested song" on the show in the mid-'90s is a bracing tonic in thinking about what kids actually like to hear. Although I think the silly outweighs the rock, even the silly has a lot of rock to it (check out the surf "Ants in My Pants"), and the rock -- exemplified by the Mr. T Experience's cover of "Up and Down" from Schoolhouse Rock and the by-now-immortal "Jockey Monkey" from James Kochalka Superstar. The sequel, released a couple years later, is more at the 120 Minutes-end of the GKS spectrum. With tracks from Cub, Supernova, and They Might Be Giants, the album has much more of an indie-rock feel. "Dictionary" is another great indie-rock track, done by Muckafurgason (two-thirds of which would later become the kids' band The Quiet Two. But the less-familiar names also turn in enjoyable tracks, most notably the surprisingly sweet (with pointed commentary near the end) "The Dinosaur Song," from Drew Farmer. Both albums are appropriate for kids of all ages (unless you think kids shouldn't hear the "Mission: Impossible" theme as performed by chickens, then stay away from the original). But I think kids ages 4 through 10 will probably get the most out of the CDs. Samples are available at many fine internet superstores. It's hard to choose between the two CDs (if, indeed, you have to choose between them), but I think my rough stereotyping above -- Dr. Demento or 120 Minutes is a reasonably fair one. There are some awesome tracks on both CDs and your family will like both, if for perhaps slightly different reasons. With news that a third collection is in the works, Belinda and Hova will get to share their many discoveries with a music world that's, well, finally, sort of, caught up with them. Recommended. Obligatory conflict-of-interest note, which I forgot to include when originally posting this last night: Belinda and Hova have just started a new Greasy Kid Stuff blog at Offsprung, which is where I post, too. I could've written this review many months ago, long before they even joined the fold, but thought you should know.