Caspar Babypants has done it again. This Is Fun!, his aptly-titled third album, is a catchy mix of whimsical tunes chock full of the same kind of charm that made his first two records such big hits with kids and grown-ups, alike.
With their easy-going rhythms and often-silly lyrics, Here I Am! and More Please! have spawned a steadily growing fan base for Seattle-based Caspar Babypants – aka Chris Ballew, lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America – since they were released last year.
This Is Fun!, being released in November, has a slightly less laughy-laughy vibe to it. Many of the lyrics have a more timeless ring to them – like the sunset tree, evening lake, midnight sky, noontime cloud and sunrise bird that Ballew added to new verses of "Shoo Fly." The images fit so well in the "I feel like a morning star" line, you'll wonder if you've been missing the end of the song all these years.
"Baby's Getting Up" emerged as one of my daughter's early favorites (mine, too). In every other line of this simple song about a day in the life of a baby, the last word repeats. "Baby's getting up/Baby's getting down – down/Baby's got a smile/Baby's got a frown – frown …" I don't know what it is, but something about that extra word makes me want to groove. I also like the whispery night-night verse: "Baby, go to sleep/Baby get a hug – hug;/ Baby's under sheets/Baby's getting snug – snug …" Reminds me of P.J. Harvey's "Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water" line without the creepiness.
The cover of Nirvana's "Sliver" (the song I've long called "Grandma, Take Me Home!") is a refreshing take on the grunge classic, which I always thought was hard to listen to because of Kurt Cobain's signature angst-laden growl. Nirvana alum and fellow Seattleite Krist Novoselic's bass line in this remake is nice and gentle, with just enough oomph to do right by the original.
"Tumble" is one of the tunes that has really been growing on me. It's a gently swaying tribute to a little leaf that's stubbornly holding on to the branch of a tree. It's got a calming guitar line that fits well with such a simple, yet memorable story.
"The Frogs" has a similar zen thing going on when it starts, then crescendos with some cool energy as frogs leap over here, over there, to the barn, to the fair, in March, in May, to keep the flies away.
I get hooked on so many Caspar Babypants songs because they paint sweet, little pictures like this of critters making their way around in the world. And it's hard not to love quaint observations about dirt, grass, puddles and rain that serve as gentle reminders to slow down and soak in the outdoors as an endless supply of fun places to explore.
More is on the way. Ballew has already written several songs that are strong contenders for his fourth and fifth albums. "They're all written, basically," he said. "It's a matter of recording them all and seeing how they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle."
Caspar Babypants will be selling signed advance copies of This Is Fun! for $12 on his Web site, http://babypantsmusic.com, during October. The album's official release date is Nov. 2, when it'll also be available on www.cdbaby.com and on the CDs page of iTunes.
Elizabeth M. Gillespie is a Seattle freelance writer and mother of a preschooler and toddler.