Tuesday, August 21, 2018

There's No Harm to Fear, Animal Farm In Your Ears

Sometimes the teaching doesn't stop when the school bell rings. Among the children's music acts comprised of former or active schoolteachers is Chicago-based Animal Farm, who have released their second CD, WE ARE ONE.

The band played live for several years in the Boston area, only to see founding member Seth Adams move to Chicago in 2012. Cofounder David Ladon found himself in the Windy City the following year, fortuitously allowing the band to reform, regroup, and re-strategize with new management. With savvy boardwork by renowned producer Mike Hagler (Wilco), Animal Farm roams free range with its genre-jumping brand of kid's music.

Animal Farm's musical stylings cannot be criticized too harshly (their target audience tops out at 9 years old) and they are laser-focused on merging the concepts of fun, music, and animals. It's the third factor that gives them an individual identity but also pigeonholes Animal Farm – they are the kids' band that sings animal songs. Nice concept for a CD or two, but can they consistently generate engaging, affable, original music?

WE ARE ONE checks off all the boxes – creatures of all persuasions make their way the CD's 14 tracks. "Snow Bird" is about a traveling penguin. "Awesome Possum" is pretty self-explanatory. And the Broadway show tune "It Always Could Be Worse" opines "Don't complain about a sore throat, you could be a giraffe."

There are a few head-scratchers, although perhaps they work better during their live show. "Two-Headed Tortoise" is the odd tale of Pat and Mort, who learn(s?) to cooperate in less than three minutes of song. "Ear Worm" uses an actual shiver-inducing creature and turns it into a song, literally:

I woke up with a tickle in my ear
A squirmy melody that would not disappear 
And that itch won't be denied
I couldn't scratch it if I tried
I'll sing it for a day or three or four forever more

In these troubling times, our government threatens to devolve into an actual living, breathing animal farm. This more genial Animal Farm pledges to bring together man and mammal, vertebrates and inveterate MAGA hat-wearers. WE ARE ONE declares "we are part of one community, reaching far and wide." They may not want to admit it, but Animal Farm is tilling for democracy on WE ARE ONE.

WE ARE ONE is available on August 24 from Animal Farm's website, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp.

Here is the video for the band's song, "Slow Down":

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