Another week, another collection of kids' songs from artists whose regular gigs usually occur well after the target audience for these compilations have gone to bed.
It's easy to believe that some of these compilations are rushed to cash in on the current fad for kids' rock'n'roll, but in the case of the recently-released Rock 'N' Roll Coochicoo Revue, that's not the case. Four years in the planning by Tanya Donnelly (Breeders, Belly) and Chris Toppin (Fuzzy), it's filled with original tracks from Boston-area musicians and friends, some of whom might be familiar if you listened to your local alternative rock station in the '90s (you know, before it went all nu-metal).
With the title of the CD, you might expect the CD to rock hard, but the heavy rockers are more the exception than the rule. The outstanding track here is the power-poppy "What Do You Like More?," which provides the listener with a bunch of kid-friendly choices ("lions... or tigers?... sneakers... or shoes?") set to a great hook and layered sounds. Toppin turns in a slightly-fuzzed-out "Ball, Ball, Ball, Ball" that's fun, too.
Most of the tracks are gentler in nature. Donnelly lends her distinctive voice to the dreamlike (literally) "Laluna the Loon" while Buffalo Tom's Bill Janovitz turns in a very goofy "The Farm Where Everyone Does What They Want To Do." Kay Hanley, who once sang for Letters to Cleo, turns in the slightly nonsensical "Baby, Baby." In fact, I kept writing "silly" or "goofy" in my notes for many of these songs. They're gently goofy, not "Weird Al" goofy, but their tone prevails as opposed slightly more serious songs (the happy-yet-a-little-bit-sad "Funny Face," about a kid who hasn't smiled so much lately). Most of the songs are targeted at the kids, though Warren Zanes (part of a family who knows a thing or two about the kids and family music genre) sings very much from the parent's point of view in "In Need You, Knock! Knock!" There aren't any bad songs here, but some of them just sort of pass by in a way that makes me think kids would be less than enthused.
Some of the songs skew a little younger, but it's most for kids ages four through eight. You can hear four of the tracks at the album's Myspace page, or samples from all of the tracks at its CDBaby page. Some of the album's proceeds will go towards Mark Sandman’s (the late Morphine singer-songwriter) Music Education Fund.
One interesting thing for listeners of my generation is how a number of the alt-rock artists from our college days have settled down and are trying to fit their rock peg into the kids' music hole, if only on a one-time basis. The Rock 'N' Roll Coochicoo Revue isn't the first album that does so, but it's the one that puts the trend in sharpest relief. If it doesn't quite reach the kids-comp goldmine of the DeSoto Play! compilation or Bloodshot Records' The Bottle Let Me Down, no matter, there's enough good stuff here to please a whole host of families. Recommended.