[29 August 2007]
Named for an old musician’s term and their ability to “spank” their instruments skillfully hard while playing them, milking the maximum amount of sound and emotion and emptying it into their songs, the Asylum Street Spankers are known for doing the unexpected. Hard to pin down in the sound department, the group mixes folk with rockabilly, jazz, blues, and a touch of punky attitude. Noted for releasing albums based around singular themes ranging from Dirty Ditties and drug use in addition to more conventional, non-thematic albums, the Spankers release a children’s album with Mommy Says No!. In spite of their usually irreverent and humorously risqué material, the Spankers’ latest offering is a surprisingly sweet view of the innocence and fun of childhood with a serious lack of sap and saccharine.
From the cheerful clippety-clop of “Be Like You” to the folky, yet modern twist on the classic, “Everybody Loves My Baby”, Mommy Says No! hones in with upbeat exuberance of seeing the world through the eyes of a child or an adult figure close to one. The range of topical fare tackles a variety of aspects of being a kid. “Don’t Turn Out the Light” features not only a galloping mandolin, but also a spotlight cameo by the Boogeyman on the catchy and imaginative track. The ultra-bluesey “You Only Love Me For My Lunchbox” is a fun, silly, and innocent look at materialistic infatuation via the playground with a killer harmonica ride and a slight bit of innuendo that younger listeners might not get but is a nodding wink to older fans of the Spankers. With the dueling lead voices of Christina Marss’ thick, brassy tones contrasting nicely throughout with the more conversational tone of song-writer, Wammo, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. All of the songs are lyrically clever, but a few such as “Sliver” and “When I Grow Up” musically grow tedious after awhile. Nevertheless, the musicianship of the Spankers’ is strong throughout and nearly all of the songs, particularly the title track “Mommy Says No” and the delightful ode to mucus, “Boogers” pack unexpectedly fun punches with playful humor that appeals to kids and adults. Enjoyable for all ages, the Spankers’ take on children’s music sure beats the hell out of Barney and Raffi!