I've been listening a lot to Pink, the third album from the DC-area band Rocknoceros, set to be released this week, and it's probably probably appropriate that I've been doing so while giving the upcoming Recess Monkey album a few spins. I've said before that the two bands share similarities in my mind -- besides the obvious fact that they're both trios, they also share a sense of humor, earnestness that isn't cloying, and rabid fanbases in their hometowns.
Like Recess Monkey, Rocknoceros also writes some excellent songs, and that continues to be true on this latest release. The album starts with the exuberant title track, perhaps the most hyper song in the band's oeuvre. You're plunged right into the album, kids are shouting the chorus, and you're wondering if maybe the band should cut back to a couple espresso shots a day. But rest assured that sanity returns -- "The Train Song" could've been written 60 years ago in its gentle swing and explanation of the different parts of the train. The fabulous "Playground" is a missing Byrds kids song, and "Big Wheel" is a crunchy Southern rocker with the irresistible refrain "How far can a Big Wheel ride?" Some songs, like "Lucky Lindy" downright take their time getting to where they want to go. (I can do without "Virginia," the song, if not the state, but given how big the band's fanbase is, I'm just waiting for "DC" or "Maryland" on the next album.)
Like the previous two Rocknoceros albums, Pink! is geared at primarily a preschool, early-elementary crowd. There is no small amount of advice-giving as on "Put Your Hat On," "Nappin' Time," and (for the parents) "Don't Give Up" but it's put over with such tunefulness that it will stand up to repeated parental listens. The band sounds remarkably full-bodied for being just a trio, and the album sounds great sonically. You can hear that sonic quality throughout the whole album, but especially on the final track "Always Tell Your Grandma," which is every bit as reserved as "Pink" is exuberant. The a capella harmonizing on the 2-minute track of advice-telling (tell you grandma you love her -- tell your parents you love 'em) ends up sounding almost like a hymn. That sounds ponderous and awful, but it's one of my favorite tracks of the year thus far.
The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8. You can hear samples from the 39-minute album at its CDBaby page (as well as a few live cuts at Rocknoceros' main page).
While there isn't an absolute classic song like "Big Head" or "Pluto" and the band's humor is a little more muted on this offering, Pink! is definitely the band's most consistent and fullest-sounding album yet. It's only a matter of time before the band starts conquering other states besides Virginia -- there are many other states who could use a new state song. Definitely recommended.