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.