Itty-Bitty Review: Champions of the Universe - Ratboy Jr.


Trying to describe the music of New York's Ratboy Jr. is an exercise in merging two disparate references.  Funk made by your favorite dog?  Music for the easily distracted kid in all of us?  A blender with really good taste in guitar-drum duos?

Whatever.  It's weird, and so long as your family is down with the first 8 1/2 minutes of the album -- a loping song about a sentient rock ("Bill"), a pure pop hit about high fiving one's shadow ("High 5 Your Shadow," natch, along with a digression into the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse), and a gentle, dreamy song about eating clouds ("How To Eat a Cloud"), then y'all will make it through the rest of the album with a silly grin on your face.  For every crunchy Americana and Velvet Underground-inspired tune from guitarist/kazooist Timmy Sutton and drummer/glockenspielest Matty Senzatimore, there's a song like "Pretend Your Hand's a Puppet," which includes an air-drum solo and more "la la la's" than ANY song in recent memory and which should wipe away any churlishness the listener has stored up from the past week.

The album is best for kids ages 4 through 8 (as well as your inner 7-year-old).  Producer and multi-instrumentalist Dean Jones helps sand down some of the band's rough edges, while creating some new nooks and crannies for the band to explore, but in the end the album rests upon Ratboy Jr.'s unironic enthusiasm, heart, and willingness to wear its rubber chicken on its sleeve.  Recommended.

Note: I received a copy of the album for possible review.