Review: Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine (self-titled)

RobbertBobbertBubbleMachine.jpgWhat do you get when you cross the Beach Boys with some fuzzed out guitars and synthesizers and mix in a tiny hint of Barney? Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine, who last week released his debut CD on Little Monster Records.

Robbert Bobbert is the brainchild of Robert Schneider, whose main job is as the ringleader for Apples in Stereo, an indie-pop band whose output melds '60s pop sounds with more modern textures. And for the Robbert Bobbert album, Schneider melds '60s pop sounds with more modern textures. Sometimes this works to great effect, such as on the synth-poppy "We R Super Heroes," one of the year's catchiest kids' songs. The raved-up "Hey Little Puppy" seems stolen from a lost Beach Boys kids album, while "Boom Boom" features lots of vocalizations (beat-boxing, "ba-ba-ba-da-da"s to no end) and is perfectly timed for a 2-minute dance break with your littlest ones.

While the music here is for the most part pretty catchy, listeners who are used to lyrics that play to two audiences at once -- the kids and the adults -- will be a little disappointed. In many songs, the lyrics are no more sophisticated than that of, well, Barney. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- what's wrong with a 90-second song tackling one theme in direct terms for a 3-year-old? And for the most part the melodies and arrangements are superior to that of the purple dinosaur's. But the songs where they don't quite ring true (the rapping mouse on "Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum"; the stomping in "The Mighty, Mighty Elephant") may have the parents hitting fast-forward and wishing for slightly more advanced lyrics as on the mini-science lesson of "Gravity" or the elegant "The Tiny Sheep."

Lyrically, the songs here will be of most interest to kids ages 2 through 5. The 23-minute album comes packaged with some sweet art from Todd Webb (Little Monster is definitely doing the most interesting physical album packaging of any of the labels dealing with kids music). If you want to listen to the album, it's embedded at the bottom of this post (after the jump if you're reading this on the main page).

The Robbert Bobbert character is being developed into a TV show. Based on the evidence from Robbert Bobbert's debut CD, it could hit the sweet spot for a lot a preschoolers and not a few of their parents. The album's got a lot of undeniably catchy tracks, and Schneider's only going to get even better as a songwriter for kids. Recommended.

(Reminder: Embedded song player after the jump.)