Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird.
But in a good way.
I can't imagine anybody would ever call Brooklyn's The Deedle Deedle Dees a typical kids music band. The band's always been content to follow its muse -- chief songwriter Lloyd Miller drawing inspiration from biographies and folklore in writing the songs and the rest of the band providing a wild musical counterpoint. While some of the band's songs (e.g., "Major Deegan" from Freedom in a Box and "Little Red Airplane" from American History + Rock'n'Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees) are very catchy, they've never been shy about wearing their curiosity (musically and lyrically) on their sleeves. In so many ways, the Wiggles they are not.
Those albums prepare the listener -- sort of -- for Strange Dees, Indeed, which is all over the map, musically. From the very first track, "Ah Ahimsa," in which the Dees talk about Gandhi's non-violent approach to music I would describe as "Bollywood-meets-The-Band," the band lets their many musical freak flags fly. Aided and abetted by producer Dean Jones, the album goes on to feature: dreamy atmospherics on "a song for Abigail Adams," klezmer on "The Golem," the sounds of '40s France on "Marie Curie," and what Miller describes as his attempt to channel Queen's Freddie Mercury on "Sacagawea." That's only halfway through the album, before the spoken-word piece with jazzy accompaniment featuring one of the band member's grandmother recalling the time she (literally) bumped into Mayor LaGuardia ("Mayor LaGuardia's Stomach").
On their earlier albums (particularly Freedom in a Box), the Dees' albums could be an awkward mix of the historical songs and more toddler-focused songs Miller hones in his weekly sing-alongs. But now that Miller's found a separate outlet for some of those simpler songs, what's left over are, with a few exceptions, songs written with older kids in mind -- most appropriate for kids ages 7 and up. You can listen to five of the songs from the album here (or at the player below).
My favorite song on the album is the penultimate track, "Henry (Hudson), How Ya Gonna Find a Way?," which "Sacagawea" notwithstanding, is the album's stadium sing-along (with bonus hand claps). It's appropriate to me because lyrically, the Dees' songs usually focus on a small facet of a historical personage's life, rather than trying to teach the listener everything they need to know about, say, Sojourner Truth. It encourages further exploration, Henry Hudson-style. With Strange Dees, Indeed, the Deedle Deedle Dees have done their part -- will your family do yours? Definitely recommended.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.