More Kids Music That Doesn’t Suck: Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine

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When you think of indie rockers The Apples in Stereo, thoughts invariably turn to quality children’s music.

Wait, your thoughts don’t turn to children’s music? Well, they should!

With notable contributions to music-heavy kid’s fare like Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Cartoon Network’s Powerpuff Girls, The Apples, and more specifically frontman Robert Schneider, have long had a functional grasp of that blessed intersection between what’s simultaneously fun for kids and entertaining to adults. This trend continues with the forthcoming release of Robert’s debut children’s music album.

Under the guise of Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine – fronted by his alter ego, "a genius inventor of musical mayhem" – Schneider performs the kind of garage-y, surf-tinged psychedelia you’d expect, but with an all-ages twist. With kid-friendly song topics like superheroes and animals, allusions to classic fairy tales and maybe even a little science thrown in for good measure, Robbert Bobbert combines catchy lyrics with nontraditional instrumentation to create an infectious sound that’s fun and easily accessible.

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I was fortunate enough to find myself favored with a preview copy of this self-titled album, and it quickly worked itself into the regular play rotation for the four-year-old geekling and me. There’s a depth to the musicality of the project that’s not easily described, but those familiar with Robert Schneider’s previous work will be delighted to hear that his exemplary level of artistry translates perfectly to the kiddie set. From the panning metronome and sugary harmonies of "I
am a Clock" to the Chuck Berry-esque guitar work on tracks like "Hey
Little Puppy," the album, even on its earliest cuts, comes across as an genuine attempt to take Apples-style songwriting into child-friendly territory. There’s an obvious lack of some of that New Magnetic Wonder
guitar punch, but "Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum" could probably follow up a song like "Hello Lola" without losing any of the latter’s surrealistic inertia.

If I am any indicator, the beginning of the album will likely find the listener actively trying to connect Robbert’s work to that of the real Robert, but it really hits its stride in the middle third.
"Gravity" is the kind of song that’ll make They Might Be Giants fans swoon, and while "Little Duck" and "Boom Boom" lack a bit of the sing-along swagger of their fellows, follow-up "The Mighty Mighty
Elephant" brings it back in spades.

Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine winds down with a trio of its best efforts, the trippy "Laughing," the chirpy and oddly poignant "I
Love the Animals" and lullaby "The Tiny Sheep," but the album’s true standout is easily its second track, "We R Super Heroes." It’s a song that would sound equally at home pumping through your mini van’s speakers on a road trip to grandma’s or featured on any of your better, more progressive pop-rock radio stations.

At its best, this is an instant charmer for parents and children alike, and even at its worst its still entertaining, if not as top-to-bottom catchy as it likely could have been. While the album itself is not due to be released on the Little Monster Records label until next month, interested parties can get a taste of the music (and a sneak-peak at the visual style of the included comic book by artist Todd Webb) at Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble
Machine’s very own MySpace. Give it the once-over to see if it suits your tastes, but this is exactly the kind of project I have no trouble recommending to GeekDads and suburban hipster parents alike.

If you like The Apples in Stereo, you’ll love Robbert Bobbert & The
Bubble Machine. And even if you don’t, your kids surely will.

Robert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine

Available at retailers and online stores nationally on February 17, 2008.

Colorful digipak includes CD and colorful comic book.

Track Listing

1. I Am A Clock

2. We R Super Heroes

3. Hey Little Puppy

4. Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum

5. Gravity

6. The Little Duck

7. Boom Boom

8. The Mighty, Mighty Elephant

9. Laughing

10. I Love The Animals

11. The Tiny Sheep

Bonus Track

(a song Robbert Bobbert wrote for his little brother’s birthday):

12. Ukulele for Davy

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