Elevate Difference

Animal Crackers

In the last few years, so-called 'kid rock' has become big business, boosted by big names, CNN articles, and nationwide tours. Animal Crackers is a folk-rock, alt-country album aimed at children and, presumably, parents driven insane by the thirtieth rendition of "Row, Row, Row your Boat." The singers are Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and Kelly Hogan, backed by Chicago's Devil in a Woodpile.

My experimental sample of one, aged two and a half, liked the first track, "Wee Hairy Beasties," and requested an encore. I enjoyed the rousing chorus, but quickly got tired of the echo effect of the female singers repeating each line. By the third track, my son had enough and asked me to turn it off. For someone who enjoys everything from the Doodlebops to Nine Inch Nails, that said a lot.

The album did not improve on the solo listen. Some of the lyrics are clever, and older kids will appreciate the word play on tracks like "Animal Crackers," if the sparse arrangements can keep them listening long enough. For adults, the animal metaphors may get old fast.

The piece de resistance is "Cyril the Karaoke Squirrel," At 4 minutes and 43 seconds, it is by far the longest of the bunch, and tells the story of a squirrel and his wife, Marjorie, the singing bee. They enter a singing contest. They only know one song, but the performance is so amazing that it makes other performers jealous, and they spread nasty rumors about the couple. The audience chases them through the streets with torches, but all ends well when the pursuers get lost in the woods and eaten by Cyril's friends while Cyril and Marjorie sing happily ever after "far away from humanity." I'm not naive enough to believe that kids should not be exposed to violence, but that was too much.

Toenail Moon" was the most enjoyable track on the album. Sally Timm's voice is excellent and the lyrics are amusing. Although the enhanced CD is advertised to contain a video for the song, my Mac claimed otherwise.

Written by: Vita Foster, February 23rd 2007

I would suggest you give this CD another listen--it's real music, not dumbed down for kids. (In my humble opinion, "Toenail Moon" is actually the most boring song on the album.) Based in real blues music, except for the "Beastie" lyrics, this is similar to the artists' "grown-up" work. Personally I loved "Cyril & the Karaoke Squirrel", musically, and its moral about the perils of persecution of those who are different.--a feminist from way back (early 70s