What do you think of when you think “New Jersey”? All right, that’s enough of that kind of language…this is a review of kid music, after all. No matter what you’ve read or seen (especially on Real Housewives of New Jersey and Jersey Shore), New Jersey is a hotbed of creativity. Don’t believe me? Ever hear of Thomas Alva Edison or, more importantly, Bruce Springsteen? Even Albert Einstein was at home in New Jersey.
Starfish, a rocking band from Maplewood, New Jersey, puts hot-button (for kids) issues to music that the whole family can enjoy. Gone are the syrupy sweet albums of yesteryear that made parents groan and kids comatose. Starfish gives us positive messages and kid sentiments set to an infectious beat that will have the rhythmically challenged up and dancing to “The Starfish Stomp” and singing along to cleverly written lyrics like “My Name is No.”
Starfish band members are veteran musicians who are all dads. StingRay (Ray Leone) does lead vocals and guitar, Grateful Dave (Dave Hartkern) handles drums and vocals, Moose (Marc Stern) is on lead guitar, Dr. Yes (Mark Asch) delivers keyboard and vocals, and AntFarm (Antar Goodwin) is on bass guitar. While they credit the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as influences, the listener detects a little bit of Animaniacs in some of the lyrics and feels a Weird Al vibe to the words of “Time Out.” Echoes of Steppenwolf, The Turtles, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, and even, gasp, The Partridge Family, among other historical (and hysterical) musicians, are evident throughout this collection of original songs.
There are eleven originals on Enter Sandbox (thank you, Metallica); it ends with Starfish’s interpretation of Sweet’s “Little Willie,” a sweet take on classic rock. Anyone who is capable of standing up can do “The Starfish Stomp,” a dance song that takes the listener on a musical trip around the world while learning how to do an outrageously simple dance that even those among us who failed Ballroom Dancing can manage.
For those who think punk rock is irritating noise, there is “Rhymes” a song that proves two things: 1) Punk is cool; and 2) It doesn’t matter if nothing rhymes with orange, you can still sing about it. “Rhymes” is about finding one’s own way of doing things and accomplishing the “impossible.”
“Bike” is the story of a stolen bicycle — or was it stolen? The lyrics are universal — everyone can relate to not finding an item where it should have been. While “Learning to Rock” is a step-by-step lesson on constructing a rock song, adults will appreciate it for its myriad references to past classics. The fun “Sick Day” is reggae with a grin.
Enter Sandbox is a welcome addition to a catalog of kid music that is packed with cringe-inducing songs that make grown-ups want to scream; it delights with witty lyrics and smart rock.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Enter Sandbox? You bet your pail and shovel I would!