I sometimes bemoan "adult" artists who all of a sudden occupy the kiddie music space. Maybe they find themselves there after having children of their own, but too often it looks like a money grab. I imagine someone whispered into a band's ear something about how much growth there is in the kid's music industry, how physical CD sales are not decreasing here (unlike the rest of the industry), and some statistic on how much coin parents spend on their kids and...voila! an album is for sale. And then comes the embarrassing drug bust and the whole thing looks pretty shady.
Robbert Bobbert is the kiddie alter ego of Robert Schneider, he of the "adult" indie rock band The Apples in Stereo. The Bubble Machine is the alter ego of, well, a bubble machine. With just his inaugural foray into a music world whose core audience may still rock Pull-Up diapers, Schneider has already mastered some of the fundamental principles of music for the toddler-set: Keep it Simple, Funny, Catchy and Sing-A-Long-able. What I like best about great kid's music is the range and sheer number of influences obviously present within an artist's oeuvre. Justin Robert's does it by calling on a diverse group comprised of Dylan, John Denver, Ted Leo and Paul Simon (and that was just on his last record "Pop Fly"). On Robbert Bobbert's debut you'll hear the '50's rock-n-roll vibe of Bill Haley and his Comets on "Hey Little Puppy" and an ode to an extremely obscure children's classic "The Clock That Went Tock Tick" (Tinkerbell Records "Hippy Hippo" LP) on "I Am A Clock". On "We R Super Heroes", the album's terrific 1st single you'll hear the obvious hat-tip to The Beatles. That is, if the Fab 4 wore lab coats and were joined on stage by a Bubble Machine and Boom Box.
I ran it once before on OWTK, but this video is just too good and too funny not to share it with you again. I defy you to listen to this track without bobbing your head and tapping your foot:
The track receiving the most love in the OWTK household is the delightfully cute "The Little Duck". I mean, seriously, how can you not smile when you learn of a polka-dot pajama wearing duck who gets lost, feels scared and "quack, quack, quack he wants his momma back". The lyrics are laid on top of a simple, Bubblicious synth beat. It is absolutely impossible to NOT get this sweet tune stuck in your head all day after just one listen. The short album (just over 22 minutes long) closes with "The Tiny Sheep" - a beautiful lullaby number that multi-tracks Schneider's voice to create, by the end of the song, the effect of a one-man choir. Quite unique and rather lovely. There is only one miss, the misguided "Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum". It lands like a thud 4 tracks in. Schneider sounds as if he's inhaled WAY too much helium to sing the part of the mouse.
I'm going to assume that Robert Schneider is not in this for an easy payday. The man is clearly having an undeniably grand time performing for a much younger crowd. There is no way a dude is putting on chemistry set goggles, a white lab coat and gumping around with kids just for a few extra bucks. Word has it that a Robbert Bobbert TV show is in the pipeline. At the very least, that should be whacky and highly entertaining.
Robbert Bobbert & The Bubble Machine is best suited for listeners 6 and under...and their parents. Listeners with ages that fall in between may very well not get it. Hopefully I'm wrong about that assessment because it's been a while since I've received a more instantly danceable and singable disc. Armed with not much more than an acoustic guitar, microphone and a beat machine, Robbert Bobbert has created one of the better children's records of the young year.
*I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the packaging. Album art is an artform that in a digital age is going by the wayside, with a few exceptions. Fortunately, one of them is Little Monster Records who continue to impress (see: "Soulville"). The colorful trifold packaging for Robbert Bobbert and The Bubble Machine includes comic book liner notes and a lyric sheet that doubles as a coloring book. Simply awesome! It makes buying the physical disc that much more attractive an option.
Robbert Bobbert MySpace