Asylum Street Spankers,
Mommy Says NO!
(Yellow Dog, 2006)

The idea for Mommy Says NO! started with the album's last track, a Harry Nilsson children's song called "Think About Your Troubles." Lead vocalist and songwriter Christina Marrs performed this song on a lark at a Spankers concert. The song became a recurring crowd favorite and inspired the notion of doing an entire album of children's music for adults. However, this isn't your everyday children's album; it's a deliciously odd assortment of musical styles.

This album is sort of a survey of musical genres, like a freshman course, except the subject matter is musical style mixed with pop culture and a bit of silliness for good measure. The range bounces around from ragtime in "Training Wheel Rag" to a punk rendition of the title track (think how the Ramones would react to a mandated bedtime). Do you like New Orleans second-line kind of music? Check out "When I Grow Up" and make sure you have a white towel to twirl. Even superheroes get folded in with a folk song about a superhero sidekick as well as a straight-up kids song called "Super Frog."

The bluesy "You Only Love Me for My Lunchbox" has tons of pop culture references that some parents are probably old enough to remember. The call-and-response section of the song is pretty funny, but hopefully no one will trip up saying "I'm a pleasant pheasant plucker, I pluck mother pheasants, I'm the most pleasant pheasant plucker to ever pluck a mother pheasant" really fast.

And true to the musical styles, there's a plethora of instruments, starting with the typical rock band stuff (guitars, drums, etc.), such as the spooky "Don't Turn Out the Light." It seems they change the instrument of choice from song to song and sometimes even within the same song, adding on a clarinet, saxophone, trombone, sousaphone, ukulele, washboard and even a toy piano as the occasion suits, as heard in the wonderful acoustic pop "Be Like You." Even a cover song isn't beyond their purview, except only a band this strange (in a good way) can turn grunge band Nirvana's "Sliver" into a frantic bluegrass song. The lyrics are unchanged, and surprisingly fit in comfortably with this album's child/adult theme.

While the eclectic assortment sounds random, the songs gel together and transition in a comfortable manner. The benefit of this approach is that there's bound to be at least one song that suits your style. And how can anyone -- young and old alike -- not like a song titled "Boogers"? The song makes good points and would probably inform you that even this review is made of boogers.

Mommy Says NO! is a delightfully odd album that has something for everyone. It's a children's album that's also geared to adults. Rarely does something "all-ages" actually satisfy all ages, but the Asylum Street Spankers certainly succeed.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

9 June 2007

what's new