As I'm preparing for the birth of my first child, I'm dealing with all the sort of preparations that most parents are, putting up a crib, stocking up on diapers, getting onesies and, of course the most obvious, assembling a play list of music that my little one and I can rock out to together.
Honestly, kids' music can be a trap. If you're not careful, before you know it, your kid will only listen to frightening songs from big-budget animated films or annoying songs sung by puppets or people in weird matching suits. And when that's all your kids will listen to, by default, that's all you'll listen to.
So in preparation for this, I'm assembling a bunch of fun punk rock to play for my new child. It includes Ramones For Kids as well as the real Ramones (because aside from a few songs about sniffing glue and the like, the Ramones are already pretty kid-friendly), Peelander Z and now, fortunately, Smile, the new album by former Skankin' Pickle frontman Mike Park.
Park has a pretty solid resume. In addition to Skankin' Pickle, he was a part of The Chinkees and the Bruce Lee Band as well as some solo releases, he's the founder of Asian Man Records, and the guy behind the original Plea for Peace and Ska Against Racism tours. Along the way, he also became a father of two.
In response to that latest development, he did what he has done in response to any previous situation that needed to be addressed - he took action. Just like when he organized tours to combat racial issues and social injustices, he recorded an album that lashes out against the dearth of substandard children's music with Smile.
Honestly, the best thing about this record is that music is not dumbed down. Smile is a solid ska record, with fast skanking rhythms and solid a horn section. And the song lyrics, while decidedly kid friendly, are just as much fun as anything any ska band has put out without taking kids into account.
Songs like "Wiggly Wiggly Worm," "Everybody Loves to Jump," "When the Light Turns Red You Stop" and "Turn Off the Lights" are definitely kid-friendly songs, but the music is solid, and the music would be just as well-received on the dance floor at a ska show as it will be in your living room. In fact, I can remember dancing myself into a sweaty mess at late-night ska shows over the years to songs with much less intelligence to their lyrics than Park exhibits when he's getting the crowd (even if it's a crowd of toddlers) to dance, jump or wriggle. None of this is much different than when Mustard Plug had us all "Skankin' By Numbers" back in the day, and we loved it then!
In addition to the ska numbers are a handful of indie-pop songs dealing with hard-hitting social issues like eating apples and painting, and "1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..Drums" is nice upbeat punk tune about beating on drums, and like always, I've loved punk tunes with less message than that many times.
As would be expected for any punk record or any kids' record, most of the tracks slide in at under a minute and a half, pointing out that the average toddler's attention span is on par with that of the average kid at a hardcore show, but Park's songwriting skills are, as always, above that of the average hardcore band. In short, the record is fun because it was written to just be a fun record, not necessarily to be a kids' record.
I met Mike Park years and years ago at a Plea For Peace show with Alkaline Trio, and was impressed with his charisma back then. When we briefly talked at the merch table, he came across as a person who grabbed hold of what he believed in, and went for it full force. It's obvious that now he's embracing fatherhood, and waging a war against bad songs by cartoon characters and people in animal costumes. And based on Smile, I'd say he's winning.
1. "Wiggly Wiggly Worm" (Listen Download)
2. "Apples Are My Favorite" (Listen Download)
3. "Little Green Frog" (Listen Download)
4. "Everybody Loves To Jump" (Listen Download)
5. "I Can See The Ocean" (Listen Download)
6. "1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..Drums" (Listen Download)
7. "When The Light Turns Red You Stop" (Listen Download)
8. "Paint With Me" (Listen Download)
9. "Turn Off The Lights" (Listen Download)
10. "Bus Driver Gus" (Listen Download)
11. "I Love To Play My Saxophone" (Listen Download)
12. "We All Live At Animal Park" (Listen Download)
Release Date: September 20, 2011