Let’s Go Everywhere – Medeski, Martin, and Wood
Little Monsters Records 101
My daughter turns three on New Year's Eve, and she's a car stereo tyrant. Sometimes she'll get lost in a good coloring book and not realize that we've slipped some "Daddy music" past her, but she's usually clamoring for the CD that comes with her music class, for Mother Goose rhymes, for what she calls "MY music!" We feel like we've won if we can compromise on Jack Johnson's Curious George, and I never thought Jack Johnson would make me feel like a winner. So I was crossing my fingers when I pulled this new MMW kids’ album out of the mailbox. I knew I would be an easy sell. After all, I wouldn’t be comparing it to the other MMW records; I’d be squaring it up against HER music, which meant for me it was bound to be a winner. It was her I was worried about, but from the very first notes she was digging it. The first words out of her mouth were, "Ooooh! That’s a pinano!" Then, "Hey! Hey! Hey! That’s Mother Goose!" And finally, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! It’s not dancing time!" all while deep in the swing her her trademark arm-flailing, knee-bending floppy dance (Does hipster irony start this young?). So yeah, I like this record just fine, but it’s probably more important that she likes it.
The band shrinks the songs down here (all but one clock in under four minutes) and rein in the freakouts (this is decidedly "in" music). They play around with all the Kids' Music mainstays—toy pianos, children's voices, pots and pans percussion, "on the go" songs, airplane songs, bath time songs—and they hip up every stitch of it, from Billy Martin ripping the tick-tock apart under "Hickory Dickory Dock" to the genuinely rollicking "Pirates Don't Take Baths" to "All Around the Kitchen," which begins with a little girl saying, "Oh, I'm cookin' hard" as she and her friends clatter around in the kitchen, banging things around and naming all the good foods like "Macaroni and Cheeeeese!" None of those are going to be hitting setlists anytime soon, but they do manage to slide a few "Daddy songs" into the mix. Three or four of these instrumentals are just subdued, shrinky-dink versions of standard MMW fare, and they're set-ready, especially "Let's Go."
The three best moments though strike the balance. My daughter and I dig them equally. The first is a lullaby of the "Moti Mo" vein that chills her out and sets my mind adrift. The second is "The Sqalb," a just-shy-of-spooky number narrated by John Lurie about the invisible little creature who lives in your pockets, shedding fur that you mistake for lint. The last though is the album's best moment, "Where's the Music?" It's the "Start-Stop" of the kiddie set, opening with the insta-groove before falling out unpredictably in the middle of a verse. A kid's voice asks the titular question, and then the groove bursts back in. As the pattern repeats itself, the silent pause grows longer and the longer, and the kids clamor louder and louder. It cracks my daughter up (especially when a little girl goes, "Hey, I found it!"), and it's proof that some things are for all ages. Whether it's the handclaps in "Stash" or the "Wooooooo!" in MMW's own "Dracula," I can always get behind a good crowd-participation number.
So sure, you're going to like this a lot more if you're listening to it with a little kid, but if you do have a little one beside you or in the back seat you're going to love it. For me, it might be more than love. I've listened to that Jack Johnson record well over a hundred times now (It's a long way to grandma's), and I'm about to crack. For me, this isn't a good record or even a great record. It's much more than that. It's nothing short of salvation.