Monday, July 06, 2015

Learning to Love the Bazillions, Harmonica Pocket's New Video

An unexpected turn of phrase. An amusing second meaning. A lesson learned through song. If you guessed, "What are three things the Bazillions do on their new CD?" you are correct. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE gathers 12 tunes for elementary-age children and spins out literacy ("Favorite Book"), science ("Water Cycle"), and grammar ("Use a Contraction").

Five years ago, founding Bazillions Adam and Kristin Marshall (elementary school teachers) thought it would be "fun" to record a children's record. Performances, merchandise, and videos were not even a thought. Two-million-plus YouTube views, one DVD collection, shirts, and two prior CDs later, the group has lodged itself firmly into the middle school firmament of Minneapolis and the surrounding region.

First and foremost to any children's music that's going to succeed in my house are the hooks. My kids have tuned out CDs that I looked forward to hearing myself. Conversely, I won't name a number of artists they keep in rotation despite my protestations. I knew the Bazillions were a keeper when Matt (4 1/2) started to sing along during the first listening of "Q and U":

They've quickly become quite unique.
And their quirkiness adds to their mystique.
They're frequently at the aquarium
because they're quite a big fan
of Aquaman, yeah!
Hey there's Q and his best friend, U. Wherever Q goes, U goes too.

Now ask me in two or three years if Matt retains this ditty's lesson or even realizes that it contained one. In the meantime, I'll take it over another refrain of "Hot Potato." No offense, Wiggles – he'll see you in September.

The Bazillions credit a laundry list of musical influences, with nary a world music reference among the latest batch. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE harkens back to the Kinks on "My Teacher's an Alien" and you can't fault them for cribbing Beatles-esque harmonies on "Use a Contraction."  If you've been longing for Fountains of Wayne to emerge from their latest hibernation and don't mind a literal sixth-grade feel, here's your fix.

There's an institutional prerogative to foist early learning on children of all ages. Kindergarten begat pre-K. Pre-K begat Mommy and Me classes. Pre-natal education is now a growth industry. But the sweet spot is still there on a park lawn, plopped down on a stained blanket. Or sitting in a school auditorium not knowing what to expect from the act in an enforced musical assembly.  Or driving into the city for some classical thing called "Tubby the Tuba." The Marshalls (and bandmates Mike Senkovich, Matt Maccoli, and Joe Letness) reject that institutional prerogative while embracing it at the same time. We'll teach your children well, the Bazillions insist, but we'll also teach them good.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE is available July 17 from the Bazillions' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is a live performance of the Bazillions performing "Career Day":

Speaking of videos, here's a new one from Harmonica Pocket for their song, "Are You A Monster, Too"?

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