[CD Review] Robbert Bobbert, 'Robbert Bobbert & the Bubble Machine' (Little Machine)

Not a single Apples In Stereo fan should be surprised to find out that Robert Schneider has recorded a children’s record. After all, he’s a father, he’s as animated as a cartoon, the Apples once penned songs for The Powerpuff Girls, and he’s best-known for writing sugary pop songs that take clear inspiration from the happy-go-lucky likes of the Beach Boys and the Monkees. If anything, his kiddie-pitched debut as Robbert Bobbert is almost a few years late, especially considering They Might Be Giants, Kimya Dawson and several other contemporaries entered the fray first.

And make no mistake, Schneider knows what he’s doing here. These 11 songs wisely average around two minutes and dwell pleasantly on animals, from sheep to ducks to an elephant. Mostly they’re tinny, low-bass ditties that succeed at working on two levels: one for kids and one for indie-friendly parents. With that said, “I Love the Animals” brings a decidedly mature perspective to the lyrics (as on Kimya Dawson’s Alphabutt), and “Hey Little Puppy” lathers on the Beach Boys homage so thick it could be a cover.

Elsewhere, the instrumental “Boom Boom” is a percussion-dizzy, palate-cleansing centerpiece, and the whimsical “The Little Duck” isn’t far removed from Schneider’s 1997 Marbles album Pyramid Landing & Other Favorites. In fact, the somewhat snide “Laughing” is adapted from a track on that album. He also makes the most of squishy effects on “Gravity” and “I Am A Clock,” sharing a child’s love of silly sounds. The major oddity is “Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum,” a rap song featuring chipmunk-style vocals from a mouse. It’s funny and playful, breaking from the album’s indie-rock mold, and showing yet again Schneider’s thirst for diversity.


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