Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weinkauf Heads Class With "No School Today"

Danny Weinkauf knows how kids work. Literally.

Spending 19 years working as a pediatric physical therapist, he helped challenging children (his words) work out issues with their bodies. Transitioning to a full-time musician (commercial work, solo gigs, and playing bass with They Might Be Giants), Weinkauf now works out people's bodies, as well as children's minds.

Parents who enjoyed the whimsy of his contributions to TMBG's kids compilations ("Where Do They Make Balloons" and "I Am a Paleontologist") will be happy to hear about his first full-length children's CD, NO SCHOOL TODAY. In much the same way Sugar Ray mined the success of "Fly" with songs in a similar vein, Weinkauf returns to his sweet spot with "Archaeology" and "Marsupial." There is also some weird science with "The Moon Is Made of Cheese" and "The Kdiney That Lived in Four People."

The Kickstarter-funded CD fills the kindie void that TMBG created by (temporarily?) abandoning the genre to concentrate on adult endeavors. I can't imagine the Johns dueting with Laurie Berkner on a song like "Our Love Fits," but it's a sweet ukelele-strummer. Musician Hank Green also drops by for the kidney song that wraps up the disc. "Ballad of Ben" may be about Ben Folds, but when your own son (named Ben) happens to play piano, it's a fortuitous coincidence.

Weinkauf is clearly proud of his son Kai's vocals (and rightly so). But the wordy "Cast My Vote" clunks along, with fact-laced verses that hammer the point into your head:

Amendment 15 changed the law and included all black men 
But women called the Suffragettes fought long and hard 
'Til when Amendment 19 said that women needed voices too
(Now) all citizens can register it's great for me and you (great for me and you)

There is a fairly large contingent of kindie music families who were brought into the fold primarily due to the four "kid-fueled' TMBG albums. Weinkauf is staking his own ground in the market, and his connection to the group will certainly help make inroads that other artists might not see. Ultimately the question is, "Does NO SCHOOL TODAY hold up on its own?" Short answer, yes. There's some light rock and roughhousing, some wackiness, and some value reinforcement, as in "Together We Can Fly."

Weinkauf has stressed that he is not "in" TMBG but merely plays "with" the band, which he dissects as the Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell). People come to see them and he happens to be there. By stepping out on his own, Weinkauf gives parents a reason to listen to (and eventually see) his original compositions. School may be out for Danny Weinkauf, but he's apparently only started educating a fan base.

NO SCHOOL TODAY is available on April 29 at Amazon and iTunes.

Here is the video for his new song, "Marsupial:"

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