Review: Binary - The Board of Education




Words that once carried a stigma are now bandied about with pride by many.  What are the increasingly subdivided niches of fans and supporters of pop culture but collections of nerds celebrating their own weirdnesses? (Note: not a slam.  After all, I am a kids music aficianado.  I know from celebrating tastes not fully embraced by the mainstream.)

Enter Seattle's The Board of Education.  If Recess Monkey and Caspar Babypants are the hardest-working artists in kindie music, cranking out albums in about the length of time it takes me to write this review, then their Kindiependent compatriots The Board of Education in are there to even out the average.  Their just-released album, Binary, follows their debut album by 4.5 years.

Perhaps it takes the band so long because chief songwriter Kevin Emerson and his bandmates are each getting advanced degrees on the topics covered in their songs -- the breakup of the Soviet Union ("Welcome Back!/Geography Quiz!"), Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek ("Know Your Inventors, Part II"), or variable specific impulse magneto-pulsar rockets ("VASIMR (To Mars!)," natch). (No advanced degree is needed to enjoy the Star Wars-themed rant/plea "Why Is Dad So Mad?".)  All of which would be deadly dull except you can tell that the Board of Education really likes the topics at hand, and they know their way around a pop hook.

Hidden behind that brainy veneer, however, is also an appreciation for how humans make their way through the world.  Sometimes it's the chief topic of a song, such as on the delicate "Three," about a young elementary schooler navigating changes in friendship.  Elsewhere, such as on "Binary" or the totally and utterly awesome "I'm Not Here Right Now," the band merges those human understandings with geekier topics.  For an album filled with a bunch of space-related themes, it's remarkably down-to-earth.

The album will be most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 11.  You can hear a number of tracks from the album at the band's Bandcamp page.

So let's celebrate the obsessives, the adults (and kids) burning with curiosity about the world around them, be it light-years away, or at the school cafeteria -- The Board of Education gets you.  And you, obsessive (or parent of an obsessive), should you choose to discover the band, you might just find another obsession.  Highly recommended.