Courtesy: Butter-Dog Records
Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies will release their debut album Bubble Wrap this summer. The twelve-song album is quite the first impression from the West Richland, Washington-based band. That is due in part to the mix of musical styles that make up the record’s body. That will be discussed shortly. The variety of lyrical themes that is presented across the record is just as important to note as its musical variety. The album’s packaging rounds out the album’s presentation. It is something that is far too often taken for granted. It shows its overlooked importance clearly in the case of this album. Keeping this in mind, it partners with the album’s other positives to make the album in whole a presentation that is one more of 2016’s top new musical offerings for children and families.
Bubble Wrap, the debut album from Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies, is quite the first impression for the musicians. Taking into consideration each of its positives, each is equally important to the album’s presentation. Collectively, they make Bubble Wrap one more of 2016’s top new musical offerings for children and families alike. This is proven in part by the album’s variety of musical styles. Over the course of the album’s twelve total tracks, Herman and his fellow musicians craft a handful of indie rock compositions that parents will likely enjoy. Those compositions make up mainly the front end of the album’s body. ‘Where’s Saturday’ changes things up with an infectious blues groove that the whole family will enjoy. Its lyrical content, which will be discussed shortly, is just as important to the song as its musical content. Front man Eric Herman not only handles the song’s vocals but also its guitar line. Herman’s blue licks are impeccable to say the very least. Ben Macy adds his own touch to the song, too with his work on the organ. There’s no note inside the album as to whether the organ used here is a Hammond, Wurlitzer, or another line. To this critic’s ears, it sounds like a Hammond. It would be interesting to find out which organ was used. But that’s beside the point. Getting back on track, drummer Javier Ruiz puts the final touch on the song’s musical foundation with his solid timing. There are no notes in the songs’ specs about who handled the lead vocals in this song. So one is left to assume that front man Eric Herman handled the song’s primary vocal duties in this song. Keeping this in mind, Herman uses a certain Johnny Lee Hooker style growl a couple times in the song that will put a smile on any blues purist’s face. It sounds just like that of the late great blues man. All things considered here the song instantly conjures thoughts of a smoky, dimly lit nightclub much like those that helped form the foundation of the blues community. It’s just one example of the importance of the album’s musical content to its overall presentation. The overall musical makeup of ‘Phone’ is another example of the importance of the album’s musical content to its presentation.
‘Where’s Saturday’ is a prime example of what makes Bubble Wrap’s musical content so important to the album’s presentation. It takes older listeners back to the early days of the blues. And for younger listeners it serves as an equally enjoyable introduction to the blues. What’s more, it also serves as a break from the indie rock sound that is so much more pervasive in this record. It’s just one example of the importance of the album’s musical content. ‘Phone’ stands out just as much of ‘Where’s Saturday’ with its musical content. It is just this critic’s own interpretation but the combination of Herman’s vocal delivery and guitar sounds similar to Cake’s ‘The Distance’ and ‘Short Skirt / Long Jacket.’ Again this is just this critic’s own take on the song’s musical foundation. That doesn’t mean that others won’t interpret it in other ways. Regardless of how that content is interpreted it can be said that it stands out just as much as the bluesy sound of ‘Where’s Saturday’ and in turn offers even more of a break from that indie rock sound that makes up most of the album’s musical body. It is still not the last example of what makes the album’s musical content so important to its presentation. Late in the album’s run Herman and company present a deeply touching, piano-driven ballad simply titled ‘Okay’ that stands out just as much as the previously noted compositions, if not more.
‘Where’s Saturday’ and ‘Phone’ are prime examples in their own way of what makes Bubble Wrap’s musical content so important to its overall presentation. They are not the only songs that exemplify the importance of the album’s musical content. ‘Okay’ stands out just as much as those songs. That is because of its approach. It is a gentle, flowing, piano-driven piece that will tug at every listener’s heart as it hits all of the right notes. Its dynamics are just as important to note here. The song’s main line rises and falls at all of the right places with the end result being an emotional impact that will bring tears of happiness to any parent’s eyes. It is just as sure to move younger listeners. Its impact on said listeners might not be as powerful. But it will still be noticeable nonetheless. It is just one more way in which the album’s musical content proves to be so important to its overall presentation. It is hardly the last song that could be cited in showing the importance of the album’s musical content to its presentation. The folksy sound of ‘I Wanna Be That Guy,’ the old school funk influenced ‘Take A Bath,’ and the playful, almost Dixieland style piano of ‘Fun Times’ are each just as notable as the compositions that are more thoroughly noted here. Whether through those songs or the pieces that are more directly discussed, it can be said of each that it plays a very important part in the album’s presentation. Collectively, they make Bubble Wrap an album that is just as fun to hear as it is to pop real bubble wrap.
The musical makeup of Bubble Wrap plays an integral part to the album’s presentation. It is not the only important part of the album’s presentation. The lyrical themes that are presented throughout the album are just as important as the songs’ musical arrangements. The themes presented throughout each of the songs vary from one song to the next but will appeal to audiences of all ages. The album’s opener and title track is a prime example of this. It is in fact about the joys of popping bubble wrap. As much as adults will want to deny it, no one of any age can resist popping bubble wrap. It is just a great stress reliever. Why is anyone’s guess. But it is. That in itself will keep adults just as entertained here as their younger counterparts. The same can be said of the lyrical theme presented in ‘Where’s Saturday.’ This song is sung from the vantage point of a child having to get up and go to school on a Monday morning, and all of the negatives that come with it. The irony is that a few minor tweaks to the song’s lyrics would make it just as relatable to adults as to children. That is because it is just as miserable having to get up and go to work on a Monday morning as it is for a child to have to big adieu to the weekend and head back to school on a Monday. As a matter of fact, there is indeed a blues tune called ‘Monday Morning Blues’ that was made famous decades ago by legendary blues man Mississippi John Hurt. It is still a favorite among music lovers of all ages and types to this day. If all of that isn’t enough, the theme of parents’ love for their children and vice versa presented in ‘Okay’ is another deeply emotional theme. While the song is sung from the vantage point of a child, it is a song that is more likely to reach older audiences than younger ones. It is about a child’s appreciation for his or her parents’ comfort in a difficult situation. The situation in question is a thunderstorm. And while it is just a thunderstorm, a thunderstorm can just as easily be equated to other difficult situations. To that extent, the pure love that the parents exhibit and the child’s appreciation for that love and comfort proves to be a concept that will move any parent. Keeping that in mind, it is yet another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It is not the last song that could cited, either. The playful yet biting commentary of ‘Phone’ could just as easily be cited as it tackles people’s addiction to their smart phones. ‘I Wanna Be That Guy’ presents its own important lyrical theme. It is an existential coming of age story of sorts that follows a man from boyhood to adulthood. As a boy he says he wants to be a certain type of man when he gets older. Then as he gets older he begins to look back on what he has done and where is he headed in life. It closes with the then grown man looking at his sons hoping that they will continue the cycle and want to be like him. Presenting the song in such fashion makes it a great concept. Presenting such an existential topic is just as creative especially for a children’s album. All things considered there the song could be said to be one of the album’s best in regards to its lyrical theme. Together with the rest of the album’s lyrical themes each of the themes combines with the others to show in whole just how important the album’s lyrical themes are to the album’s presentation. Speaking of the lyrics, they are printed in full inside the album’s gatefold packaging, which is the last of the album’s most notable elements.
Both the musical and lyrical content presented within Bubbble Wrap are equally important in their own way when considering what makes this record stand out among its fellow family and children’s albums this year. While both are equally important they are not the album’s only important elements. The album’s packaging is just as important to its presentation as its overall content. The packaging is so important to note because it features the full lyrics to each of its dozen tracks. This makes following the songs all the easier. Thanks to that ease of following the songs, so many discussions can be raised. There are no detailed specs within each song about who handled which part. Considering that Pettey’s duties are listed as not just playing guitar but also handling main and backing vocals, this can be somewhat problematic in giving credit where it is due. That aside, audiences at least are given a face to go with each name and role within the band. This is not something that audiences always get, especially with new acts. To that end, it is another good addition to the album’s packaging. All of that, in conjunction with the album’s overall content, shows why the album in whole is one more of 2016’s top new family albums.
Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies’ debut album Bubble Wrap is one more of 2016’s top new family and children’s albums. That is thanks in part to the variety of musical styles presented throughout the album’s dozen total tracks. There is a touch of the blues in ‘Where’s Saturday,’ which is in its own right a tribute of sorts to the classic blues tune ‘Monday Morning Blues.’ Whether or not that tribute was intentional is anyone’s guess. Regardless it is there. The socially conscious ‘Phone’ boasts a sound that at least to this critic is similar to the likes of mainstream rock act Cake. And the beautiful, moving piano-driven melody of ‘Okay’ presents a wonderful ballad style sound that listeners will love just as much as the other presented styles. There’s even a fun almost Dixieland style sound in ‘Fun Times’ alongside the indie rock sound that populates the rest of the album’s songs. The lyrical themes presented throughout the record are just as varied as its musical styles. ‘Phone’ is a sarcastic commentary about people’s addictions to their smart phones. It’s a message that adults should hear just as much as children. ‘I Wanna Be That Guy’ is a deep, thought-provoking existential coming-of-age story that is just as inspirational as it is thought-provoking. ‘Okay’ is just as impressive thanks to its story of parents’ love for and dedication to protecting their children. It is a message that along with the song’s musical side, won’t leave a single eye dry. And while the album is at least somewhat lacking in certain notes, the inclusion of full lyrics to each song helps to keep listeners engaged from beginning to end. As should be clear now, each element noted here plays its own important part to the overall presentation of Bubble Wrap. All things considered this album proves in the end to be one more of 2016’s top new family and children’s albums. It will be available June 10th and can be ordered online direct via Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies’ online store at http://www.erichermanmusic.com/bubble.html. More information on Bubble Wrap—including guitar tabs for each song and the album’s liner notes—is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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