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Music Reviews: 'Wired' And 'Appetite For Construction'


Now, some music for kids and the parents who are trying to reduce the presence of the Internet in their lives. Stefan Shepherd has this review of two albums that both encourage creativity off-line.


RECESS MONKEY: (Singing) Let it rain all day. I wouldn't have it any other - any other way.

STEFAN SHEPHERD: With so many opportunities for kids to stare at screens - big and small - it can be work to get them to use their creativity and make things with their own hands. But a couple new kids albums look to inspire them to do just that. On their new album, "Wired," Seattle trio Recess Monkey celebrates makers with songs about school dioramas, duct tape and Legos.


MONKEY: (Singing) Brick by brick by brick - brick by brick by brick by brick - brick by - don't walk in bare feet 'cause the blocks are littered around. Find a piece of green ground, sit down and build up a tower. Made a castle once that reached above our big bookshelf.

SHEPHERD: The band started out with a heavy Beatles influence. But over the course of 11 albums in just nine years, they've also mixed in a bit of a pop punk sound - appropriately for an album about playing off of the grid. The band recorded this new album on tape, which makes the song "Batteries Not Included" apropos.


MONKEY: (Singing) I search inside the playroom, dig into a bunch of bins. Can't find any batteries. But I get building. Yes, I do. And after about an hour or two, I'm surrounded by a massive playroom fortress. But I still can't play with the greatest new toy.

SHEPHERD: While Recess Monkey's songs use lots of guitars to underscore their celebrations of creativity, Brooklyn duo The Pop-Ups take the listeners back to 1985 on their album "Appetite For Construction."


THE POP-UPS: (Singing) What can you make with all these shapes? What can you make with all these shapes?

SHEPHERD: If MTV had a kids music channel in their video heyday, this song, "All These Shapes" would have been in constant rotation.


POP-UPS: (Singing) Triangle magnet on my fridge, are you an Egyptian pyramid, a mountain large against the sky or a sign to yield as we walk by? Maybe you're a ramp that we can jump, a pointy goatee beard on a punk, a megaphone so we can chat or a happy birthday party hat.

SHEPHERD: If Recess Monkey's album targets your favorite first grader, The Pop-Ups aim for their younger siblings. They sing about making puppets, creating photo collages and trying on all sorts of clothes at a costume party. Just like Recess Monkey, The Pop-Ups know that you don't need your parent's smart phone to have the world at your fingertips.


POP-UPS: (Singing) It's a costume party. Maybe it's the way something buckled in back. Some are really scratchy. Some have silken thread.

BLOCK: Stefan Shepherd reviewed the album "Wired" by the Recess Monkeys and "Appetite For Construction" by The Pop-Ups. Stefan writes about kids music at zooglobble.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COSTUME PARTY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stefan Shepherd