August 7, 2008

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Barenaked Ladies, Snacktime
2008, Desperation Records

With 24 family-friendly songs, some very short, Canadian pop-rockers BNL make a foray into kids’ music. Sure, you could play any old BNL album for your kids — they’re pretty clean and often peppy — but except for “If I Had $1,000,000,” the adult subject matter wouldn’t resonate and the references would fall flat. Then again, a reference to Gordie Howe on Snacktime no doubt eludes most kids too, but the majority of this CD is about stuff kids (as well as their adults) deal with — allergies, playground jokes, foods loved and hated, homework, etc. And then there’s the trademark BNL wordplay. “A Word for That” is quintessential BNL, and “Crazy ABCs” is brainy fun: “A is for Aisle” and “G is for Gnarly” ….

Snacktime has its operatic moments and its rapid-fire “One Week”-like moments and, yes, its dull moments. The faster songs (which predominate) will probably pull in more kids than the pensive, slower ones. BNL works the ubiquitous foods-loved-and-hated theme better than many others have, adding off-the-cuff banter in “I Don’t Like” and cameo appearances from music celebs in “Snacktime” (here’s a teaser: Geddy Lee likes barbecue potato chips).

If there were an all-kids radio station (never mind satellite), “7 8 9” would be the first single. It’s a highly sing-alongable riff on the old joke about why 10 is afraid of 7.

Oh, and there’s a short song about ninjas, which is also apt to work its way into your head. (“Ninjas are deadly and silent / they’re also unspeakably violent / They speak Japanese and do whatever they please and sometimes they vacation in Ireland.”)

Like musical Chex Mix, Snacktime is a mixed bag in which kids and parents will home in on the bits they prefer and leave aside the rest. The good bits are tasty. Bonus: the booklet insert includes printed lyrics — good for kids just getting their literary legs. B+Lisa Parsons