Review: Jerzy the Giant - The Terrible Twos

JerzyTheGiant.jpgThough there are many charms of kids music, subtlety is usually not one of them. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you, but most kids' music is direct and to the point, especially lyrically.

Which is what makes the music of the Kansas-based band The Terrible Twos not like most kids music. The band, which is the kids' alter ego of the Matt Pryor's band The New Amsterdams, has never been interested in making simple kids music. (Pryor once famously -- for the kids' world, anyway -- branded the music of Barney and the Wiggles as "incredibly annoying crap." There are a legion of kids who would disagree, though the parental vote may be much more evenly split.) For some kids in the age range suggested by Pryor's band's name, the music will fly right over their heads, though they may bop along to the often uptempo melodies.

Older kids (and their parents), however, may find the more indirect lyrical approach of the band pretty appealing. On their second album, Jerzy the Giant, the Terrible Twos tell tales of people and emotions. On a few songs, such as the winning, near-perfectly constructed album opener, "Old Man Miller," the band tells a direct story (this one about the growing friendship between the song's narrator and an elderly neighbor) while using metaphor and simile to embellish ("Old Man Miller was a porcupine," Pryor sings, a line that will cause confusion in the toddler-aged set). Other songs are much more impressionistic in nature, such as the oooohing "Elliott Oooh" or the sweet "Amelia Minor."

The songs here range from the folky end of the pop spectrum (the shuffling "Archibald McAllister," about a particularly stinky boy) to the rocking end (the latter part of "Lily Names Everything Sandy," the title of which is pretty much self-explanatory and describes a very real -- for Pryor, anyway -- parental frustration). "Jerzy the Giant" (the song) is a breezy pop-rocker, while "Olly Olly Oxen Free" has a soaring chorus. The only song that set my ears on end was "Great Big Poop," which I place in the category of songs that break up otherwise outstanding albums -- file it alongside "Fitter, Happier" or "Underneath the Bunker." (Having said that, it's the most direct song on the album, and may be the one that your youngest kids may most relate to here. And, Pryor's daughter Lily, who co-wrote the song, also helped out on "Elliott Oooh," so perhaps she gets a pass.)

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. At 29 minutes in length, the 16 songs here zip by, none more than 2 1/2 minutes in length. You can preview the whole album here.

The Terrible Twos continue to write great family-friendly songs. Jerzy the Giant is a fabulous album, thirty-feet-tall with sweet melodies and kid-appropriate lyrics. Even if your kids love the Wiggles, one day they'll outgrow them, and when they do, there are many far worse albums to graduate to than this one. Highly recommended.

[Note: Just to reiterate the possible conflict of interest, I was asked by Vagrant Records, which released the album, to premiere the album stream. I wouldn't have done so if I hadn't wanted to have a lot of people listen to the CD, based on my feelings above. But now you know, in case you hadn't before.]