As this Kids New Wave enters its second decade, long-time practitioners have matured in their songwriting. Peter Himmelman is no different. His initial albums, mostly fanciful and Roald-Dahl-like in their oddness, have given way to being grounded more (though not completely) in reality, and he's written more sharply-crafted (and well-produced) pop and rock songs.
My Trampoline starts off with a bang, with three great songs -- the skittering keyboards of "Imagination"; the rocking "King Ferdinand," about Himmelman's turtle, fueled by an infectious guitar riff; and "My Trampoline," a bluesy rocker with a horn section. Himmelman sounds very comfortable singing about these very familiar situations, but he hasn't completely shed the fanciful diversions that dominated his earlier work for kids. Once again he rattles off a bunch of facts with a high truthiness quotient in "Statistical Factoids" and dreams of grass singing in the orchestral "Ten Billion Blades of Grass."
His best work, though, is grounded in reality with just a touch of fantasy mixed in -- on the country "Main Dish," Himmelman sings "Does the relish ever want to be the hot dog / Does the pickle ever want to be the bun?" His use of food as a metaphor for figuring out one's role or place in life and being comfortable with your own self is genius. Himmelman is confident enough to throw in a gratuitous "Fiddler on the Roof" reference on the title track (or a Charlie Pride reference in "Main Dish"). Even more confident is his decision to reveal the story's point in narration at the end of "Pin Head" rather than the beginning.
Right now, Peter Himmelman is writing songs with the energy of a man who's figured out what he wants to say and how he wants to say it. My Trampoline is a strong collection of songs and stories in song for imaginative kids -- it's definitely a worthy musical companion for fans of Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, and good family music. Highly recommended.