Monday, February 26, 2007

***Hungry March Band***

One of the reasons I love living and working up here in the NYC metro area is the fact that you literally never know what's just around the corner. Now, imagine you're jivin' down Union Street in Brooklyn and suddenly you're face to face with a 25-or-so member marching band blasting out a Duke Ellington ditty, a swirling gypsy tune, or "Paranoid". Think Polyphonic Spree but with band instruments, and with a million times more punk rock spirit. That's right, people, the Hungry March Band want your attention, and they're gonna get it!

This Brooklyn-based ensemble of nebulous membership is all about the neighborhood, baby. They're intensely committed to social concerns and have many, many causes in which they're deeply involved. Musically, they seem to have massive amounts of fun but, believe me, they don't take their playing lightly. Their first two CDs, Official Bootleg in 2000, and On the Waterfront in '03 (with illustrations by Lower East Side legend Fly), were just warmups for this blast of reed & brass-fueled musical fury. Critical Brass, released in 2005, contains a dizzying array of covers and originals played with a possessed fervor unlike anything this side of Norfolk State University's band, songs that grab yer attention by the ears and force you to groove along. Pop in album-opener "Jupanese Ju Ju" and crank it up!

Check out their performance schedule, and see them live!!


Monday, February 19, 2007

***Asylum Street Spankers***

Finally! After months of "it's fixin' ta come out soon" updates and myspace soundbite leaks, what may be the album to beat in the kids' "CD of the year" category has finally been released. And believe me, folks, it was well worth the wait! If you're a fan of down-'n'-dirty, sweet-'n'-sassy acoustic ensemble music, yer gonna love the Asylum Street Spankers' first album for kids, Mommy Says No!

Between group releases and solo projects, this band from Austin has released a crapload of awesomely rowdy and raunchy music that, I promise, NEVER fails to get you on your feet a-dancin'. But don't worry, grownups, you can play Mommy Says No! for the tots without losing any of the Spankers' trademark feistiness, intelligence, and inventiveness. Lots of punky roadhouse blues, 20s & 30s jazz, rolling cajun rhythms, and western swing, all totally acoustic, all totally rockin', providing the soundtrack to childhood, you know, songs about the power of an awesome lunchbox, the joy and pride of getting rid of your training wheels, sweet tunes about admiration and friendship, the endless possibilities of the future, fear of the dark, and a frog with super powers named ... Super Frog!

This album of mostly originals also includes a jacked up cover of Nirvana's 1990 single "Sliver", a pretty straight reading of Harry Nilsson's "Think About Your Troubles" from his wonderful kids'/adult album The Point!, and Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams' "Everybody Loves My Baby", first recorded by brother Clarence Williams' Blue Five in 1924, then made popular by Ruth Etting and later by Doris Day, the Spankers' version of which will cause absolute mayhem on the Toddler dance floor.

Their funny songs are dirty, their dirty songs rock, and their rockin' songs are hilariously witty, so make sure to check out their entire catalog. They've recorded whole albums and EPs dedicated to weed and sex, but for Mommy Says No! the Spankers toned down the subject matter and continued full bore with the music. This shows a great faith in kids' music tastes on the part of the band, and the kids will appreciate the gesture. A hugely talented band with a great sense of humor givin' it up fer the kids. Their parents should be proud.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Hey, kids, micromusic ROCKS!!! With an almost fanatical loyalty to computer systems of yore, ComputeHer, aka Michelle, has created an album of hyperdanceable tunes using an old Game Boy, a Game Boy Camera, a Commodore 64, an Apple IIe, an Atari 2600, an old Nintendo, a couple of Texas Instruments educational games, and a keyboard here and there. She goes all out and issues her CD, Data Bass, in a 5 1/4 in. floppy sleeve to the delight of us oldsters.

Of course, this genre has been alive for a while, and involves a mind-blowingly deep pool of devoted talent, but it seems to be getting really big in Europe, and I'm always up for new music formats. Besides, can you imagine the crazyass post-Toddler Time dance revolution this CD would cause? Interpretive moves like you wouldn't believe!

Check out ComputeHer's myspace page, including a few YouTube clips of live performances. Kids' music is supposed to be fun, and this is nothing but! Oh, and here's a pic featuring fellow music gamers at a show.

Monday, February 05, 2007

***Purple Burt***

Lemme see if I got this right: There's a kid who's purple but invisible, he eats purple soil to stay on his toes mentally, he's color blind but owns a zillion color TVs, his dad is missing, he's in love with a girl named Do-Re-Mimi, he jumps a hope rope and collects inert gasses ... hold on, here's what we'll do. Get your nearest copy of Purple Burt, press play, listen to the first song, and all (well, almost all) will become clear. The first 3-dimensional CD cover ever? I don't know, but the google eyes on the front of Purple Burt only add to the wonderful oddness of this masterpiece.

In the spirit of Harry Nilsson's The Point, Mitch Friedman presents the story of a boy with unique qualities and an interesting collection of family and friends, told with songs and narration. What began as a single song on The Importance of Sauce, one of Friedman's albums for adults, grew into the title song for and storyline of Purple Burt, his first kids' CD. Friedman gets musical assistance on Purple Burt from XTC's Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge, and DIY pioneer R. Stevie Moore. Not only do many of the songs recall Moore's oddball pop brilliance and XTC's jangly psychedelia, you can hear a hint (intentional or no) of kids' musician extraordinaire Mister Laurence in Friedman's delivery and song structure.

Dig the manic doowop of "Wonder Where", the jump rope percussion in "I Hope", the Ween-like "Try This On for Size", the ukulele tear-jerker "I Miss My Daddy". But the chart-topper, the one to tell your friends to add to their ipods, is "Color Feel", a wistfully beautiful pop song about not being able to see colors, but to feel them, instead. Every song is almost like a lyrical "Where's Waldo", with witty lines hidden within tongue twisters and puns, like "If a fish can sniff through water / Could it smell the guy that caught her?", and "Some sillium, some serious / Boron and curious / Half an itty bitty liter / Of some peterpumpkinether". But what makes this whole thing cool is that you've got a kid dealing with acceptance, jealousy, friendship, loss, schoolboy crushes ... you know, all that crap that comes along when you're about, say, nine or ten ... presented under the guise of a goofy kids record.

This is an adventurous and silly CD for your middle-grade kids, but could just as easily be in high rotation on Jersey City's WFMU. Oh, and check out four more Purple Burt-related songs on Friedman's website, along with a teaser message about the possibility of a second CD that will continue Purple Burt's adventures.