The Hipwaders are a really tight trio from California who have a fun sound and a nice variety of styles. Their self-titled debut CD was released in 2005 and starts right off with the invitation- "Come along with us!" And then it jumps into a very upbeat song imploring all to "come aboard the Hipwader bus". The sound for this is very much like The Byrds (uh, Roger McGuinn, not Alfred Hitchcock), complete with 12-string Rickenbacker guitar. And there's also a Wonders (or Oneders, if you prefer) kind of feel from That Thing You Do! I'm not sure that this worked that well for me as a full song, but I think it would be great as a jingle or TV theme song as it's very catchy and totally "feel good".
The album continues with the Stray Cats rockabilly of "Messy Room Song". I like the idea that the kid in the song is sent to clean up his room with a feather duster, a mop and broom, and then realizes that he really needs a bulldozer and a dump truck. "Earthquake" has a similar kind of verse-to-chorus change as Geof Johnson's "Hot Sand", and adopts a B-52's kind of sound, which works great. The B-52's influence is back again with "Rock Lobster" style backing vocals in the chorus of "Twitchy". Musically, the album shifts gears pretty sharply with "Welcome to the Zoo", which has sort of a mariachi feel to it, and especially on "Silly Robot Dance", which gives a clear answer if you were wondering whatever happened to Falco. These are both fun tracks and demonstrate the versatility of the band and the vocal chops of lead singer Tito Uquillas.
Other favorites of mine include the Beatle-esque "Insect Safari", which includes some funny banter between the 'insects'; the creepy jazzy "Mr. Wiggly Jiggly Bones", which I can picture as the soundtrack behind some Tim Burton animation; the tribal rock of "Volcano"; the Smashmouth vibe and dirty guitar of "Stand Up to the Bully"; the David Lynch landscape and spooky twang of "Howling at the Moon"; and the closing song "Valentine", which opens with some Beach Boys "ba ba ba"s and turns into a bouncy Turtles love song with cute lyrics like- "Valentine, I'd like to make you mine. Can you see this heart-shaped thought balloon floating over my head when I think of you?"
If there's any complaint I have about the album (and when I say 'complaint' I mean that very mildly... it's not like I'll be calling to yell at The Hipwaders' customer service department), it's that sometimes the influences are so on-the-nose as to lose some of the character of the band itself. Tracks like "Jelly Beans" and "My Green Bicycle" are good songs, but they're so completely soaked in Beatles sounds and chord phrasing and recording techniques (and Tito doing a slight Liverpudlian accent) that I almost wonder, am I listening to Revolver or The Hipwaders? And there are a lot of other on-the-nose references like that throughout the album, like the Falco and B-52s things. These guys are super-talented musicians and songwriters and I'd like to hear their music be something more unique to who they are and have their influences be much more transparent. It's one thing to listen and think, hey, this band seems like they're influenced by the Beatles or the B-52s... that's cool... but it's not as good when they sound exactly like that. If you're looking for a tribute act, then sure, but not for something original. There was already The Beatles and The B-52s... so I'd like to hear The Hipwaders be The Hipwaders.
The band is currently working on their next album, which should be released sometime this year. I'll look forward to hearing that and seeing where they go from here. Their debut CD is terrific and makes them a real promising entry into the kids' music world. Either you're on the bus or you're off the bus... Definitely pay the fare and get on with The Hipwaders!
The Hipwaders website
Review of The Hipwaders' Educated Kid CD