On the fourth album KidQuake, Seattle's Not-Its have settled nicely into their kid-pop-punk groove. Of course, "settling nicely" implies that perhaps this is a more relaxed and down-tempo album than its predecessors and that would be a total lie because this is one of the worst just-before-bedtime albums ever.
It starts out with the title track, which praises kids' energy (and hopes to channel it into changing the world), then moves on to the even higher-energy "Let's Skateboard" (if you, like me, listen to the song and wonder what a "stalefish" is, here's your answer). And then there's "Busy," which alternately celebrates the busy lifestyle (lots of "go's" and horns) while sonically suggesting that we're just all a little too busy. Band guitarist Danny Adamson sometimes jokes about new Not-Its songs "melting faces off," but this is definitely music to bounce to, with Sarah Shannon's vocal range another key component of the song's allure.
The band's lyrics and subjects have always been targeted right at young elementary schools, and over time I think they've improved their ability to write from the kids' perspective without talking down to them. Songs like "Participation Trophy" ("Second Grade basketball: 9th place! / Participation Trophy") and "Tarantula Funeral" ("Bob, we didn't know you very well / We never could tell just what you were thinking") serve as good counterpoints to the more eager/irony-free songs like "Walk or Ride."
The 28-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. You can stream the whole album here. As always, the band's album packaging (once again courtesy of Don Clark) is visually distinctive, a nice complement to their tutu-ed and black-tied performance outfits.
From their debut album, the Not-Its have not made any great stylistic leaps, but rather have refined it. There's something to said for the methodic steps the band's taken, because KidQuake is their best album yet, a blast of fresh air, and a ton of fun. Highly recommended. (Except for right before bedtime.)
[Note: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review.]