An experiment in music journalism for 4 year olds. A risky business at the best of times. Is Mick Cooke really ready for his harshest critic yet? How will the standard of critique compare to ITM? usual standards? Well, we can assume that since this latest children’s album has been inspired by his very own toddler Ralph, Mick already knows a thing or two about honest opinion from the mouths of babes. And who are we to argue with an album that has already reached number 1 on iTunes children’s music chart in its first week of release, knocking CBeebies off the spot!
Introducing Heidi, aged 4 and a quarter (currently asking on a daily basis if she is 5 yet, I’m sure that won’t get tiring.) A keen ‘pop’ fan with the occasional dabble into ‘rock, grunge, indie and electronica’, I’d say she is a fairly typical toddler, but being surrounded in her home by musical instruments and bits of PA equipment, a musical father and a musical wannabe in her mother, she has somehow absorbed an intuitive understanding of ‘what’s good’ and ‘what’s not good.’ And that’s all we need to know here, so at the risk of turning into an episode of ‘Kids Say The Funniest Things’ let’s hand this review over to her…(occasionally ably assisted by her sub-editor, 15 month old sister Summer.)
Track 1: The Zookeeper’s Song
“I like it, it’s funny, I like the man’s (Richard Colburn) singing. Sounds like… my nursery songs.”
Track 2: Geoffrey the Giraffe
“I like giraffes’ long necks.”
Track 3: We Are The Tigers
Cue lots of dancing, growling and sniggering at tigers eating chocolate pie.
Mum’s note: A guaranteed winner, funky enough for any age, and the addition of chocolate pies in any animal song is a certified hit with any under 5.
Track 4: Yvette The Vet
“Sounds like Toy Story.”
Track 5: Playtime For The Penguins
“Sounds like Justin Bieber!” (or Biebid as she actually calls him). Now there’s a comparison I bet Belle&Seb would have been proud of.
Mum’s note: This one got the baby dancing too so double win! Joined by traditional jazz old timers called the Uptown Shufflers, Mick says: “They are a dream to work with. You just show them the chords and the melody, hit record, and you instantly have a trad jazz sound on your record. Or indeed the sound of a penguin band!”
Track 6: The Peacock Strut
“Sounds like princesses. Yuck, do peacocks eat off the ground?!”
Mum’s note: Growing up in Dunfermline Heidi is very familiar with peacocks and their pomposity so I think she appreciated the enthusiastic and quite accurate peacock noise at the end.
Track 7: Cecil The Saddest of Snakes
“Sounds like trees.”
Mum’s note: Have to say I’m glad it wasn’t me reviewing this track, an odd 80s TV theme tune style with a very strange unplaceable snake accent so trees are probably a fairly accurate comparison.
Track 8: Percy Pink the Parrot
Mum’s note: Appealed more to the younger of the two reviewers, Heidi at this point seems to have reached some kind of writer’s block, though it may be down to relatively short attention span of any 4 year old.
Track 9: The Crocodile Synchronised Swimming Team
Mum’s note: A personal highlight for me, brilliant harmonies and at risk of sticking in my head all day. Sadly Heidi was frightened of this one, apparently not liking the threatening tone of “we’re the crocodile synchronised swimming team, don’t come too close or we’ll pull you in”. Note to would-be children’s album makers, fine line between cool and scary and cool but nightmare-inducing.
Track 10: The Lion Dentist
Mum’s note: A big hit, lots of laughter at thought of such a ridiculous job, although apparently it really exists, so says Mick: “My wife is a vet, and she knows this guy whose job is it to scale and polish the teeth of the big cats at Edinburgh Zoo. In the song, it is taken to an extreme, where the lions remain conscious throughout the process! I thought it was a good topic for a song: will he survive his next patient?”
“Mummy, did the lion eat the dentist?! “
(again, songwriters, see notes on Track 9!)
Track 11: The Elephants Are Feeling Sick
“You can’t have too many buns, eh mummy?”
Mum’s note: Certainly not, don’t know what these silly musicians are on about.
Track 12: Sarah the Seal (featuring Helen Lloyd on vocals, of ska band Amphetameanies)
“Sounds like me singing!”
Track 13: Zoe the Zebra
Mum’s note: Liking the subtle teaching on anti-bullying tactics in this track, feel Heidi may have to listen a few more time before she grasps the underlying messages.
Track 14: The Zookeeper’s Birthday Party
“Amazing! Is it my birthday yet? This is brilliant! Is it my birthday yet? It’s about birthday parties, I love it, they are having cake, is it my birthday now?”
Mum’s note: Definitely Heidi’s favourite track for obvious reasons. If she’d been old enough to own her own iTunes account, this would most certainly have clinched the sale. I was personally relieved to find the lion coughs up the previously munched dentist.
Track 15: Monkeys Are Breaking Out Of The Zoo
Mum’s note: This track is very enjoyable for the adult listener, a nice mellow ending. It previously featured on the Colours Are Brighter album of children’s songs, a project curated by Mick Cooke and released by Rough Trade in 2006. The album collected children’s songs written by a host of indie talents including Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol and The Kooks, raising over £30,000 for charity Save The Children. By now, our little reviewer is exhausted and not appreciating the Belle and Sebastian, Cooke collective back catalogue references, and instead still going on about playing Track 14 on repeat. Well, it’s no ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’, but it sure beats the Rastamouse – Lazytown mashup for the hundredth time this week.
Heidi gives it 5 gold stars and a high five for good measure.
(If any other Scottish artists would like the critique of a mildly disinterested yet simultaneously excitable 4 year old get in touch!)