The first full-length children's album by Canadian pop stalwarts Barenaked Ladies
reveals what is both enchanting and a little bit irritating about the often witty, sometimes silly, and usually melodically catchy pop band. Musically, all the Barenaked
touchstones are here: '70s singer/songwriter, AM pop, indie rock, folk, alt-rock, and even some quirky electronic-based romps. In that sense, the album plays like most of the band's catalog, with each bandmember adding a composition to the mix. The difference here is in the lyrical content, which is obviously aimed at and inspired by kids. But rather than simply target kids of today, Barenaked Ladies
have crafted a children's pop album inspired by their own '70s/'80s childhoods. Accordingly, listeners gets tracks like "The Ninjas," a popular and kitschy topic among Gen-Xers (due largely to the abundance of '80s ninja movies), turned here into a kind of fairy tale about sneaky and deadly nighttime visitors. Similarly, the loopy wordplay song "Raisins" finds vocalist Ed Robertson
wondering whether "the Parthenon's in Greece/Or was it in Grease 2?" But rather than merely calling out retro-pop culture themes, songs like the giddy "Eraser" and the thoughtful "Canadian Snacktime Trilogy" bring to mind a time when kids were more likely to spend afternoons with crayons and Elmer's Glue than with computers and the Internet. It's also reminiscent of a time when bubblegum pop was the sound of kids' music, and tracks like "Vegetable Town," "'Drawing," and "Humungous Tree" bring to mind -- at least lyrically if not specifically musically -- the fantastical, bittersweet, pastry-laden landscapes of the Banana Splits
and the Wombles
. Admittedly, for all the pleasant and hummable tracks on Snacktime!
there are conversely a few ear-grating numbers like the hyperactive rawk of "Allergies" and the quirky but static reggae of "What a Wild Tune," which may elicit enthusiasm from the PB&J set while acting as a kind of musical torture technique on parents. That said, cuts like the sunny and melodic "'Pollywog in a Bog," the airy and euphoric "Louis Loon," and the cinematic album closer "Here Come the Geese" bring to mind well-earned comparisons to Todd Rundgren
, and the Flaming Lips
, and are easily some of the best pop tracks, let alone children's songs, Barenaked Ladies
have ever recorded.