Monday, October 08, 2007

The Hipwaders: Educated Kid

The Hipwaders are one of the best kid rock bands to emerge in recent years, and their latest CD is called Educated Kid.

In my previous feature about The Hipwaders, I mentioned how much I liked the songs on their debut CD, but that their influences often seemed too obvious, so that it sometimes sounded like a Beatles tribute band performing original kids' songs. Thankfully, on Educated Kid, the band seems to have largely shed the need to wear their influences so prominently and are sounding more like a very unique band that blends a variety of sounds and musical approaches with clever lyrics and stories. There are still some sound-alike parts here and there; the
"baa baa" sections of "Little Baby Brother" and "You've Got to Move" that sound a lot like "Let's Spend the Night Together" as if sung by The Monkees; and the Proclaimers joined by John Mellencamp "uh huh, uh huh, uh huh" of the title track. But even in those cases, the integration into the songs is more transparent than it seemed on their first album.

Speaking of the title track, wow, it's absolutely incredible. A really cool tremolo guitar riff, a great verse leading to a greater pre-chorus leading to a perfect hook, and a poignant message about how your education, no matter how or where you get it (clown college, beauty school, home school, researching on your own, etc.), can help you to achieve great things in life. It doesn't get much better than this in kids' music, and Tito Uquillas and Co. have definitely got their biggest hit so far with this song.

With the "Educated Kid" song as great as it is, it's a tough act to follow for the rest of the album. After a few listens through the whole CD, the other songs haven't grabbed me as well as that title track, or as well as some of the songs on their first CD (regardless of the sound-alike thing), but it's hard to compare the other songs fairly with "Educated Kid" on there. There's a whole lot to love on this album, to be sure, and without the benchmark of the title track, I'm sure the other songs would stand perfectly well on their own.
Other favorite tracks of mine include the chunky reggae of "You've Got to Move", the frenzied rock of "Art Car", featuring some awesome drumming by Nick Baca (see video below), and the spacey trip through the ages of the Earth called "The History of Declan Rae".

Befitting the title, The Hipwaders seem to have skewed more heavily toward educational subjects on this disc, and the obvious comparisons will be to Schoolhouse Rock! But it can be very difficult to craft an informative message about things like paleontology, geometry or the Dewey Decimal System into a memorable and captivating song. On Educated Kid, sometimes the attempts work really well and sometimes they don't quite. "Dewey Decimal System", for example, kind of meanders through several different musical stages, so for the most part I would put it into the "doesn't quite work" category. But then it does score some big points for the funky part where the title is repeated. Give the words "Dewey Decimal System" to a hundred different songwriters and I doubt any could make them sound as cool as Tito did with that chorus. So with this type of material, I don't think they've yet reached the level of accessibility and "all-time classic" feel as Schoolhouse Rock!, but they're certainly in the right neighborhood and show terrific potential to create a cool new brand of educational songs in addition to the other fun songs in their catalog.

Overall, Educated Kid continues to highlight what an incredibly creative and tight band The Hipwaders are and what a fantastic voice for kids' music Tito Uquillas has, both as a singer and a songwriter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go play that title track about ten more times... Oh, yeah... I'm just an educated kid... uh huh, uh huh, uh huh...

Buy Educated Kid and hear more samples.

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