Kids music. It’s a different animal. The lyrics are silly. The hooks are sugary. Nothing comes even remotely close to being categorized as offensive. Reproduced, generic pet sounds float in and out of certain songs. Voices are catered to an adolescent imagination, morphing from cute to soothing to informative. The idea behind it all is to teach — teach through the conduit of music, teach through the conduit of the arts.
That’s why it’s just so darn frustrating to understand how or why some of these local kids music artists blatantly rip off adult hits. Mr. Jon and all his friends were guilty of this in 2013 when they lifted AC/DC’s “Back In Black.” And now, with the adorably well-produced “Goo On My Shoe” from area lawyers-turned-musicians Here Comes Trouble, the same trick sits front and center no more than three songs into the thing. It comes at the one-minute mark on the title track. A nice funky structure gives way to a parody of The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men.” The change?
“It’s raining now. Hallelujah. It’s raining now. Hallelujah.”
It’s a shame because the rest of the song is sort of pretty great. Centered around a pop-reggae groove that would make Matisyahu proud, it’s a tightly performed production that establishes Here Comes Trouble, at the very least, as adequate, competent musicians who are versatile enough to pull something like that off. Even the female vocal harmonies, led by Kelly Donohue, fit well above the Rastafari tones, the “Don’t know what to do when I got goo on my shoe” refrain taking on a mildly pretty and somewhat graceful identity due to her matured, full voice.
And, all things considered, that matured, full voice is a useful asset to the Here Comes Trouble oeuvre. “Bubbles In My Bath” is a fun fit of uptempo electro-rock that takes on interesting textures with Colleen Dyer’s tasteful guitar and Jon Babu’s dance-tastic drumming. With its infectious hook, it echoes B52s influences and Devo spunk. The same formula — with less focus on the electro and more emphasis on the rock — works just as well on “Alligator.”
Then, as it tends to be with most kid-centric acts, slowing things down serves the band well. “Hooky” is elegant, naive and suitably big-eyed. Donohue’s voice is made for ragtime swing, its richness contrasting wonderfully with the falsetto do-dos that paint the post-choruses with indie flair. “Watermelon Felon” proceeds to crawl in and get smoky with its upright bass and prominent backing vocals. It’s like the “SpongeBob Squarepants” of Here Comes Trouble — grown-ups can find just as much pleasure in its two-and-a-half minutes as an adolescent could.
Actually, musically inclined adults should be able to appreciate the group for their raw skills. Opener “I Want Dessert” has a nice ‘90s radio-rock vibe to it, a tom-tom pattern running through the verses and classic guitar noodling carrying the weight once the speed kicks up. The “HCT Theme Song” is fun enough and even has an “Everyday”-era Dave Matthews touch to it, complete with folk/funk electric guitar. “Little Red Car” could legitimately double as an outtake from a Stax Records session some 50 years ago. Steve Cropper would be proud, yes, but the prominent B5 organ is good enough to bring a smile to Booker T. Jones’ face. Out goes the Green Onions. In comes Fisher Price.
That same dynamic predictably continues throughout. “That’s Who I Am” shuffles like the theme song to Craig Ferguson’s sorely missed late-night talk show, even if it features a line like “I wear flip-flops when I go to school/And a suit and tie at the swimming pool.” When actual kids show up to add authenticity, like on closer “I Like Toys” or the Bobby McFerrin-ish “Don’t Eat The Mailman, Doggie,” it’s a nice (and admittedly foreseeable) touch. Be it spoken word on the latter or actual singing on the former, that inclusion lends a sense of honesty to the project. Or, in other words, even if they occasionally rip off other songs, it’s hard to argue that Here Comes Trouble’s collective heart isn’t in the right place.
And that’s all that probably really matters, of course. With “Goo On My Shoe,” Here Comes Trouble proves that not only do they want to give kids well-produced music to listen to, but they also want to provide them an occasional stage on which they can perform themselves. This being, for all intents and purposes, a side job for parents who wanted to provide entertainment at their children’s birthday parties, you can’t really question the band’s purity. The fact that they are pretty good at what they do is secondary to the notion that their motives are genuine.
So, yes. It’s silly. It’s sugary. It’s not offensive. There are pet sounds. The voices are aimed to connect with a kid’s imagination. And, on some level at least, the tracks want to teach the youngins about everything from hobbies to desserts to self-worth to a dance called “The Alligator.” Now if only these guys — along with the rest of their child-band brethren — could stick to their own imaginations than those of pop music past.
Because then, and only then, might the goo on the proverbial shoe be just a little less sticky.
** 2 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 **