BAM-BANG Music Review: Barenaked Ladies’ Snacktime

I find the more I listen to Snacktime, the Barenaked Ladies’ album for kids, the more I want to listen to it.

barenaked ladies snacktime album cover
BNL’s Snacktime!

When we look for kids’ music in our household, our main criterion is that it be fun to listen – for us. It’s not that we don’t care whether E is entertained; it’s just that we know the drill. We know that for kids, listening to the same thing over and over is comforting, whereas for us, it has to be pretty great music to stand the test of child-style repetition.

The fact that I sometimes put on Snacktime by choice… well, that should speak for itself.

Here are my appreciative notes on the album:

  • There are 24 whole songs on the album. But don’t be daunted: they’re all extremely listenable. And some are very, very short.
  • The “Barenaked Children” sing on a lot of the tracks. And you can tell that the BNL are Daddies who have listened to their kids a lot – the kid mentality comes through all over the place.
  • At the same time, they use whatever obscure vocabulary they want. In fact, the BNL have pulled off the kind of genius that Pixar and Dreamworks do with their kids’ movies: put in plenty of jokes and nods to the adult audience so we know they had us in mind too.
  • By the same token, they demonstrate their belief that kids should be listening to high-quality, interesting, challenging music. (I totally agree, if you couldn’t tell).
  • Pollywog in a Bog” is an adorable song that I think might actually be my very favourite. Plus, I just discovered that it’s got an awesome video in which the musicians are woodland puppets.
  • Raisins” is a stream-of-kid-consciousness song that talks about approximately 23 unrelated topics – and it has the catchiest whistled chorus ever.
  • E’s favourite song is “Eraser“, to the tune of “Speed Racer” (he likes to sing “Eeeeeeeeeeee-raser!”). It has several sections done in different musical styles, one of which recalls the epic harmonies of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Similarly, “Drawing” has an 80s pop sound that reminds me of the B-52s.
  • “I Can Sing” contains a line of high-speed, perfectly-rapped folk lyrics courtesy of Ed, not to mention a gorgeous guitar solo at the end that makes me wish the song were longer.
  • “Louis Loon” makes me happy: it is so mellow and fun, and reminds me of my honeymoon on Galeairy Lake, where I saw my first up-close loon. It also fits in with the other nature-themed songs like “Humungous Tree”, “What a Wild Tune”, and the majestic “Here Come the Geese”.
  • If you wanna hear Steven Page and Ed Robertson doing their signature chatting schtick, there’s “I Don’t Like That”. At least half of it’s gotta be unscripted.
  • “A Word for That” teaches us anatomical words like “uvula” and “philtrum”; “Food Party” was my first experience with the word “umami”. “Crazy ABCs” gets all tricksy and gives us words like gnarly, czar, pneumonia, etc., just to mess with our children’s sense of spelling (plus, more chatting).
  • I love the songs that validate the emotions of children. “My Big Sister” is for any boy who’s ever been asked to wear his big sister’s hand-me-downs; the music is sweeping and melancholic, like the wild desert frontier – and the lyrics mean business: “I like my big sister, but I don’t wanna wear her coat. […] You and I both know: it’s a girl’s coat.” And “Bad Day” is a simply lovely expression of what it’s like when you’re a kid with the blues. We grown-ups can get something out of it, too.
  • You gotta get a kick out of hearing a whole bunch of celebrities (the likes of Gord Downie, Weird Al, Sarah McLachlan, Janeane Garofalo, and Gordon Lightfoot), along with the Barenaked Children, telling us their favourite snacks in “Vegetable Town”.
  • “Things” is a tiny, perfect song that makes us smile every time.
  • There are a few I still haven’t mentioned – and they’re all good too.
  • Looking at some of the videos I’ve linked to… I’m sad all over again about Steven Page leaving the Barenaked Ladies. (I almost said “about the Barenaked Ladies breaking up” – because that’s what it feels like to me. They’re not the same without him.) They made such a great onstage team, especially Steve and Ed. I miss the thought of them all being awesome together. 🙁
  • Here’s one last video, just ‘cuz it’s funny:

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