Monday, August 27, 2007

Scribblemonster

Scribblemonster is a super-cool kids' band from the Chicago area. In my article about John Hadfield, I mentioned how his music seemed to have a sharp dichotomy between two different styles. Well, Scribblemonster performs several different styles of music, but they seem to have an even more dramatic distinction when it comes to the overall sound they have. The first two songs on their second album, Chocolate Milk, are a perfect demonstration of that.

The first song, the title track, is a power chord anthem which almost seems like a style parody of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll". Jumping right out at you through the speakers is the voice of ScribbleMonster, which is indeed very "monstery", sounding something like Dave Mustaine, Harvey Fierstein and MacGruff the Crime Dog if they all gargled with turpentine. It probably is a bit scary of a voice for the youngest or most timid of kids, but then again, if you're putting on a CD called "Scribblemonster", you should probably expect a scary monster voice, and this certainly delivers that along with a heavy dose of crunchy distorted guitars.

You might think from the first track that this is going to be one of the only original heavy metal albums for kids, but then track 2 makes you wonder if maybe you actually bought a compilation CD and Scribblemonster only had the leadoff track. "Beautiful Day" is an upbeat acoustic pop tune with jangly guitars and the decidedly ungruff and quite beautiful voice of ScribbleKitty. This song is catchy and cool and well-written and performed, just like "Chocolate Milk", and yet couldn't be more different from that track unless it was an Indian raga performed with kazoos and featuring a chorus of peacocks (I've yet to hear a children's music act do that convincingly).

But the more you listen to Scribblemonster, the more you realize that those two very divergent sounds, and many more, are just part of the whole experience. So it was probably very wise sequencing to put those two tracks up front like that, so you didn't get too familiar with one voice before being presented with the other. But ScribbleMonster and ScribbleKitty are actually only two of the four Scribblemonster voices... There is also ScribblePiggy, who has a bit more of a bluesy tone to her, and ScribbleBunny, who is more of a cute little boy character. ScribbleMonster and ScribbleBunny are both voiced by James Dague, who also writes and produces most of the Scribblemonster material. I'm not sure how he pulls off performing the two different voices live, but I'd like to see him try. (ScribbleKitty is Joyce Stuart and ScribblePiggy is Jayne Saniat).

All together, the four characters make for an interesting group, and I love the way they interact throughout the very hooky songs. And Scribblemonster has several songs that cleverly leave room for kids to interact directly with the song. For example, on "The World's Greatest", each of the Scribbles sing a verse about what their character would like to be (i.e. "I'm gonna be the world's greatest dentist" or "greatest singer" or "greatest plumber"), and then they leave a verse with just the music, so that kids can sing about whatever they want to be. It's sort of like karaoke mad libs. On the song "I'm a... (Anything I Like)", they sing the first part of the line, but leave the end for the kids, such as, "I'm a box of... (???)". It's especially funny to hear ScribbleMonster singing the verse that goes, "I'm a girl named... (???)" This has become a fun game for us to play on the road, because you can make up just about anything. For example, my two year-old created this gem, "I'm stinky and I'm a foot." I don't know if James came up with the idea for this type of song, but I can't recall hearing this kind of thing before, and regardless, they do a really great job with these.

Throughout both of their albums, Scribblemonster has a terrific blend of melody, rhythm and subject matter that is perfect for kids. Their first album, Best of Friends, is a little rougher in terms of its production, but has just as many great songs as its successor, like "Wishin' Around", which has a wonderfully soaring melody; "A Monster Goes Rrrargh!", which has a monster going "rrrargh!" (see video below); and "Hooray!", which is one of those aforementioned "make up your own verse" songs.

Scribblemonster has also performed some notable guest appearances, including their popular track "I Wish I Lived in Michigan", which appears on Kevin Kammeraad's epic 49 track CD about the state of Michigan called A Curious Glimpse of Michigan, and backing Monty Harper on the title track of his Get a Clue album.

Scribblemonster website





1 comment:

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I found Scribblemonster quite by accident on iTunes (O how I love the serendipity of iTunes) and downloaded "Chocolate Milk." My daughter likes the song so much we have to limit her intake or we'll get sick of it ourselves. I appreciate the homage to Joan Jett, of course.