It's hard to write a review about Field Trip, the recently-released fifth album from Seattle's Recess Monkey. Not because it's bad, mind you, just the opposite -- it's just that the band's run of great albums and songs has been going on for so long now that it's getting more difficult to find new and interesting ways of saying "these guys are really good -- your family should listen to 'em."
From the two-minute simple Beatles-esque "Fort" to the fanciful power-pop of "Marshmallow Farm" to the sweet "Sack Lunch" the album starts off with great pop tunes and doesn't really ever stop. "Sack Lunch" manages the odd trick of not only writing a song from the perspective of a kid's sack lunch but also making it stand as some sort of metaphor for a really powerful love. (It also does so with the Northwest Boychoir singing the phrase "sack lunch" chorally, which makes me smile every time.) On the album goes, through '80s dance of "Haven't Got a Pet Yet" and the funk of "Hot Chocolate."
Recess Monkey has always been willing to approach the "novelty song" line much more than a lot of bands, and I can't say it always pays off -- the spaghetti western of "Ice Pack" is just OK and did the world need a song (no matter how catchy) about lice ("L.I.C.E.")? (The answer is no.) But that song is sandwiched between a tender love song ("Tiny Telephone") and the best kids song Elvis Costello never wrote -- "The Teens," which is ostensibly about difficulties in counting past ten but will get parents nodding about their kids' forthcoming teenaged years. The most exciting thing to the long-term listener of the band is that expansion of world view -- figuring out how to encompass more experiences of older listeners without sacrificing their core audience of young school-aged kids.
The album is still primarily targeted at kids aged 4 through 9. You can listen to samples from the 41-minutes album here.
So, yeah, Field Trip is another excellent string of songs from Recess Monkey. If you're a fan, you'll love it. If you're not a fan, though you'll probably be a bit mystified by the John Vanderslice bit at the very end, this is as good a place to start as any, as it's their best album yet. In the end, all I can say is that these guys are really good -- your family should listen to 'em. Highly recommended.