Review: Thank You For Joining the Happy Club - Billy Kelly

HappyClub.jpgHere's a sign of how oddball a CD is: when you cover a Talking Heads song on your kids' album, and it might just be the least weird song on there.

Thank You For Joining the Happy Club is an oddball CD, and I mean that as a high form of praise. It's the debut kids' CD from central Pennsylvania's Billy Kelly, and it's totally winning in its goofiness. How goofy? Try this, a snippet of animation for "People Really Like Milk":

And it goes on like that ("People really like drinking / From a really big thing that goes moo"), getting sillier all the while. It is a novelty song, perhaps, but it is a perfectly-constructed and produced one, possibly my favorite song of the year. The rest of the CD follows that pop-rock template, if not quite reaching those giddy heights. The title track invites you to "tell your dog the join the happy club" (with a perfectly timed woof) while having the background singers provide the "doo-doo-doos" after Kelly sings that "there aren't any dues." While the hyper (and genre-jumping) "I Don't Know!" sounds like early They Might Be Giants, most have the tracks have a warmer, usually joyous Barenaked Ladies vibe, particularly on songs like "Springtime: It's My Favorite" and "(Let Me Tell You) What I Like About You." And, yes, there's a Talking Heads chestnut, "Don't Worry About the Government," which in its straightforward reading is OK for kids, if a bit mystifying for them. (Hey, at least it's not "Stay Up Late.") Kelly and his band, the Blah Blah Blahs, make an appealing sound together; I particularly enjoyed the guitar work, which reminded me a bit of Adrian Belew in spots.

Now, there's no good reason to have two self-referential songs about song construction -- one is plenty for a kids' album (one is probably plenty for any album). And Kelly has a tendency to resort to spelling in his lyrics. (I'll admit, though, that the song title "S-N-O-W-M-A-N (Snowman!)" is pretty funny.) You take the good with the overdone good, I suppose.

The album will be most appreciated by kids ages 6 through 10. You can hear several songs from the 32-minute album at Kelly's Myspace page. For now you can purchase the album here.

Thank You for Joining the Happy Club is an album for slightly older kids, those who enjoy snappy wordplay and goofy imagery. I could see younger kids being puzzled by the hullabaloo and it's a bit too cute by half at points, but I think there are going to be some families who absolutely love love love this disk. Join the Happy Club? Sure, I did -- I might even run for president. Definitely recommended.