When the new Caspar Babypants album dropped through the letter box a few weeks ago, it was that usual warm feeling of knowing that you’re about to hear something for the first time whilst also pretty much guaranteeing that it’s also going to be a great – a bit of a rarity these days, especially with the bombardment of uninspiring bands that have flown through the pipelines over the past ten or so years. Caspar Babypants however, now on his third album, seems to be immune to the disease that is poor and generic tripe and has moulded his own style to once again come through with an album that, although specifically aimed at children aged 2-8, is equally as enjoyable and contagious for parents and non-parents alike. I will challenge anyone to listen through this record and say they don’t enjoy it…
For closer fans of the man behind the mask (Presidents of the United States of America lead singer, Chris Ballew) the 20 songs are more of what we have become to know and love from this talented and wacky Seattlite over the past 20+ years, and this is arguably some of the most fun and catchy music he has ever produced.
“Third album syndrome” as I like to call it is one where most bands run out of material and subsequently burn out. Anyone who is familiar with Ballew’s music however will be more than aware that he is nothing short of a musical machine – and truth be told, the earth’s water supply will probably be dry before this guy runs out of songs. As part of his ongoing kid’s music project, this album (his third in under two years) is a clear cut above the previous two, which incidentally were incredible in their own right and received rave reviews from children’s music communities and parents worldwide.
“This Is Fun!”, his latest venture, kicks off with a song that has been part of the Babypants live set for a while now, entitled “All You Pretty Babies”… An upbeat and fun number that’s sure to get the family dancing right from the get go. Similarly catchy and full of typical Ballew keys is the second number “Speedy Centipede” – A chorus that joyfully recites “Centipede I am lonely for you” and a number which also pulls in familiar vibes from previous Babypants albums; most significantly the intro, which sounds a lot like the Island Hop! Fans of Ballew’s musical escapades may also recognise and welcome this song to the fold, as it is in fact a re-do of an old demo of the same name, originally featuring on his “Caspar” cassette tape, way back in 1993.
As we move on, harmonicas and trademark Ballew sounds and lyrics ensue as “Legend of a Bone” tells the story of a lost bone and its endeavours, whereas “Where Do You Go” is able to accomplish much of the same and brings about the acoustic guitar to help try and solve the burning question of where various nature hides away during times of turbulence out in the wild.
Avid fans of Chris Ballew will remember one of his previous projects under the alias “The Giraffes”, which helped satisfy his musical output towards the end of the nineties and which brought to light arguably his best ever work (up until now of course!). The sensational grooves and pop feel seem to seep through more on this new album than on any of the previous, especially during next track “Googly Eyes”, which I could even go as far to consider as being a strong contender for “best song”… By no means an easy feat!
The album progresses in much the same vein with a fresh version of Babypants live favourite “Shoo Fly”, followed by a tale of tigers playing musical instruments, quickly followed up with a dose of contagious country-flavoured-baby-hoe-down music in the form of “Bounce Your Baby”. You can then get lost in more baby antics as “Baby and the Animals”, which could easily have been performed as a Presidents song, brings back the harmonica vibe and is the perfect mid-album choice.
Not to be outdone by the long-aged shadows of the Seattle grunge scene, we even get a Caspar Babypants inspired version of Nirvana’s classic “Sliver”, with guest Krist Noveselic on bass (no less). The darkness of the track is cleverly screened with sweet acoustic riffs and unparalleled originality in the song’s adopted new lyrics… “Had to eat my dinner there… Mashed potatoes and stuff like that…” Little known fact; Ballew actually had to request Noveselic to redo the bass part as it wasn’t good enough! I guess Nirvana never really was intricate enough for the kids.
The colourful poppy sounds roll on through “Cukoo”, “It’s Gonna Rain” and “Frogs” – another very fresh version of a very old song from Chris’ library of music. With this particular song coming back to life all the way from 1985, it does seem to have that “eggy” vibe to it (EGG was Ballew’s band in the late ’80s) and will have everyone singing along “ooh yeah, they hop and they hop, away, away, away!”
We then get a more country and folk feel in “Mister Rabbit”, featuring Charlie Hope on vocals; full of great country harmonies and even a surprise acoustic rock-out in the middle! “Little Ditty” delivers us a more relaxed number, getting you in the mood for the soft “Buckeye Jim”, which has more going on in it than you can shake a stick at. Watch out for this track, it’s deceivingly good.
As the end becomes nigh there are still a few little nuggets left; firstly “Look At All These Elephants”, which, without hearing it yourself, can only be described as a really fucked-up nursery rhyme with trippy percussion. This is one where you probably need to be a kid yourself in order to understand it! It’s followed up by the deep “Tumble” – very much reminiscent of Ballew’s “Loose Balloon” song with the Presidents and featuring some Cypress Ghost-esque guitar from way below the surface. Elizabeth Mitchell joins the party for “Dark of Knight” and rounds the album off with another softer song. Great chorus and despite its soft nature, I couldn’t help but feel that there was rock in there somewhere, trying so hard to get out.
Overall this is an awesome record. A record that the kids will love. A record that the parents will love!
Review by: Timmy Dub, webmaster of PUSAfan.com
Go to BabypantsMusic.com to get the album from the beginning of October. If you’re quick then you’ll even get it signed by Caspar Babypants himself!
You can also buy the album from his shows in and around Seattle during October and beyond. See all his upcoming shows here!