Review Two-Fer: Greasy Kid Stuff (1 & 2) - Various Artists

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.

GreasyKidStuff.jpgIn 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.

GreasyKidStuff2.jpgThe 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.