See You on the Moon!
t's important to get your kids listening to good music as early as possible. If you're not careful, one day they'll bring home music that you call racket, and you'll officially be old. The classical music approach is cliché (and you can't tell Rossini from Boccherini from Mochachino). You've already traded in a tinkling music box for a droning buddha machine, but you want this kid to know some songs. Paper Bag Records came up with the solution for hipsters from 5 to 105: See You on the Moon!, a collection of children's songs by indie rockers.
Like most compilations, this disc has both hits and misses, but it carries itself on the amount of fun the artists have with their songs. Alan Sparhawk sets the perfect tone by opening the disc with "Be Nice to People with Lice." He clearly enjoys the song and its winking message, and the presence of a laughing audience adds to the joy. Great Lake Swimmers follow with the title track, which may be my favorite performance of theirs (and I say this sincerely). The number has just the right kind of catchiness and entertaining lyrics for children to sing along to, but it won't drive parents nuts as an earworm the way most little ditties on repeat might.
The strength of "See You on the Moon!"—that it plays to both kids and grown-ups—reveals the collection's largest shortcoming. Too many of the artists hit on the kind of song that kids typically like, but with arrangements likely to appeal to adults, leaving no one satisfied. Possibly early education about pop form and radio unfriendliness and the like will help these kids get from these tracks into the indie world, but it's a stretch. Broken Social Scene, for example, takes on "Puff the Magic Dragon," but really only updates the druggy vibe, dropping the day-glo psychedelia in favor of a digital spaced-out sheen. You'd probably be better off just throwing on any of the group's albums if you want your kids to get their groove on.
Glissandro 70 (from Polmo Polpo) comes close with an oddly voiced and digitally popping "Voices Are Your Best Friend," but it sounds more like a version of what adults think would have been hipper to listen to as youths, rather than what would really have been enjoyable. Mark Kozelek and Detective Kalita provide melodic tracks that, while good performances, don't seem to capture the essence of childhood sing-along music (except for the dreamiest children). Fortunately, they should hit the spot for moms and dads, and since they sit in the front seat with the stereo, that's what's important.
But ultimately, you have to satisfy the whole family, and it's not surprising that someone with a name like Kid Koala would be able to do that. While Lederhosen Lucil, who counts Pee Wee Herman among her influences, sings a vocal that should appeal to everyone ("I am your vitamin C / And you are mine, too / I 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ate you"), Kid Koala spins enjoyable but not excessively complex beats. Childish enough for kids without being idiotic, and fun enough to get parents singing and dancing like good ones should.
So it's the typical story: the album's success and its failures all hinge on the same thing. The disc doesn't quite work the whole way for kids (unless I'm misremembering my ancient childhood, and misidentifying the tots in my own world) or for adults (although Apostle of Hustle and Hot Chip help in this area). The best tracks—by Sparhawk, Great Lake Swimmers, and Kid Koala—work through a general sense of fun and enjoyability without pandering or stretching. Still, it's a fine way to get those little ones away from Disney Channel Idol or whatever racket they're listening to these days.