Itty-Bitty Review: Look Both Ways - ScribbleMonster & His Pals

Scribble_LookBothWays.JPGI'm not sure whether covering obscure Sesame Street songs is either foolish or genius. But that's exactly what Chicago-area band ScribbleMonster have done on their just-released new album Look Both Ways. Aside from the opening track (their cover of the show's theme song), the casual fan (adult or youth) is likely to recognize few (if any) of the songs here. What the band might lose from "Rubber Duckie" completists skipping the collection they gain from the freedom of putting their own stamp on some of the best songwriting for kids anywhere. One some tracks, you can't picture another band covering these songs any better than they are. On both "Loud and Soft" and "Stop!" the power-pop band hit just the right enthusiastic/giddy/slightly silly tone that will motivate kids to sing along and participate. This silliness also shines in the duet with ScribbleMonster (the, er, monster) and kids musician Steve Weeks on "Clink, Clank." (The phrase, "Right, I take this xylophone mallet," makes me smile every time.) They also provide distinctive covers of the slightly-disturbing (at least to my memory) "I Want To Hold Your Ear" and the sunny "Someday, Little Children," featuring Racer Steve from Princess Katie & Racer Steve on guitar. The songs are most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7. You can hear samples from the brief (26-minute) album at the album's CD Baby page or five full tracks at the band's radio page. I'm still not sure whether covering semi-obscure Sesame Street songs is foolish or genius, but it's hard to go wrong with folks like Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss writing songs and ScribbleMonster performing 'em. Recommended. Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the album for possible review.

Listen To This: "With a Smile (It's Christmastime)" - ScribbleMonster

ScribbleTripleJ.jpgNew music from ScribbleMonster, even if it's a re-worked version of a previous release, even if it's holiday-themed and therefore has a somewhat limited shelf life, is always welcome. So get yourself over to the ScribbleStore and download the sweet "With a Smile (It's Christmastime)" for free -- I do so dig multiple singers singing multiple melodies. Photo credit: the band.

Review: Songs With No Character - ScribbleMonster

SongsWithNoCharacter.jpgIs releasing a kids' music album in November like releasing a movie in January? Because December 31st is the deadline for having your movie considered for the upcoming Oscars, it's implied that studios dump all their really bad movies in January. So, if you just miss the October 31st deadline for Fids & Kamily, does that mean it's a bad kids music album? Well, no, not at all, but curse Chicago's ScribbleMonster for making Fids & Kamily voters struggle over their ballots. Their new album, Songs With No Character, was officially released this week on November 4, but has been available informally since late October. Is it a 2008 album or a 2009 album? And, yes, people have been asking that question, which is one indication of this disk's quality. I've mentioned in the past my mixed feelings about the cartoon voices that have appeared on past ScribbleMonster albums, and so from my perspective, the (almost-entirely) cartoon-free voices on this disk ("Songs with no character," get it?) already served as a selling point. And, really, a lot of the songs work just as well (though perhaps not necessarily any better) sung in a regular voice. ScribbleMonster and its chief songwriter Jim Dague has always been willing to impart wisdom via song -- the difference between them and a lot of artists who do similar things is that these songs are so insanely catchy that you don't mind the directness of message. I mean, "Doing The Right Thing Isn't Always Easy, Doing The Easy Thing Isn't Always Right" is about as straightforward as the title itself. It's also a groovy song, graced with horns. "It Could Have Been Worse," co-written with Monty Harper, has a silly, breezy tone that will capture both the young and old. And "With A Smile" can make even the most grizzled parent appreciate the value of smiling more. Which isn't too say it's all sweetness and light and kindergartners only. "I'm A Utility Pole" is a totally dorky (and, therefore, winning) song about a totally dorky dance move. "Spare The Rock, Spoil The Child" is, hands-down, the best theme song for a kids radio show ever, though it rocks harder than your 4-year-old will. There's even a little weary cynicism in "No Good Can Ever Come Of A Sleepover" ("empty promises" isn't a lyrical turn of phrase you often hear in this genre). That's offset, though, by "The Song of LIFE," which, though going over the heads of the kids ("what's this 'LIFE' game?") will appeal sentimentally to their parents who remember the classic board game. It's really a "family" album, which means that different songs will appeal to different family members, but I think kids ages 4 through 10 will most appreciate the songs here. You can hear some of the tunes at the band's Radio page, Myspace page, or CD Baby album page. So, yeah, I liked this album. Whether it's the first really good album of 2009, or the last really good album of 2008 isn't really the point. It's a really good album. Definitely recommended.

It's Sort of Like Early Voting, But for Kids Music

SongsWithNoCharacter.jpgI mentioned a while back that the ScribbleEmpire had posted some new songs from their Nov. 4th ScribbleMonster release Songs With No Character. Well now you can stream that whole Election Day-released disk at ScribbleMonster's Radio page. Go and listen now -- and if you like what you hear, for a limited time you can buy two copies for the price of one. Such a deal.

Listen To This: A Bunch of "No Character" ScribbleMoster Tunes

Songs With No Character has had many different planned release dates, but it appears that ScribbleMonster has settled on November 4th for the official release of its self-titled "first 'family album'." Want to hear some of the new album? Then get yourself over to the band's Myspace page, where you can hear the newly-posted "Good Morning Little Children," "All Ready To Go,""Doing The Right Thing," and "Scratchy Records," along with the previously-posted "The Game of LIFE." All four songs have their charms, but it's "All Ready To Go" and "Doing The Right Thing" that will get your family bopping. Nice use of horns on those two. Oh, and I love about halfway through "Scratchy Records." Made me laugh.

New Music, Album from ScribbleMonster

I've said before (though maybe not to any of you) that if you miss hearing the power-pop that saturated the airwaves in the early '90s, then kids' music might just be your best option. There are few better at that particular subgenre than the Jim Dague and the rest of his compatriots in ScribbleMonster. They've got a new album, Songs With No Character, coming out this spring, and they've just added a couple songs from the album available for downloading and listening on their Myspace page. Both tracks have been floating around for awhile now. "Spare the Rock Spoil the Child" was, as you might expect, originally crafted for the Spare the Rock radio show and rocks mightily. "The Song of LIFE" has been around in a live version since spring 2007, but now is up in full studio glory. It's actually a (comparatively) mellow track, and really as geared toward the parents as the kids, but it's sweet in its own way. It's reminiscent of one of the great masters of power-pop, Fountains of Wayne, in their more country-ish moments (think "Valley Winter Song," for example). And, hey, even if you're not sure about those songs, go to the Myspace page and listen to "I Wish I Lived in Michigan," "The Fur Trade," and "Chocolate Milk" along with 'em. It's 10 or so minutes of great music.