The Not-Its are at it again. The veteran kindie-rock act released its latest full-length studio recording Ready Or Not late this past September, and the 12-song, 36-minute album another entertaining new offering from the Seattle, WA-based band. That is because overall, the album is a celebration of the innocence of childhood, with the highs of childhood and the lows. The end result is a work that is without argument, another welcome offering from the group. The album’s opener and title track is just one of the songs that serves to support that statement. It will be discussed shortly. ‘The Battle of Curriculum Night’ is another important addition to the album that cannot be ignored. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Runaway Bike’ is yet another work that shows what makes Ready Or Not another positive effort from The Not-Its. It will also be discussed a little later. Of course, it is not the last of the songs that show what makes Ready Or Not so enjoyable. Any of the album’s remaining eight songs can be used just as easily as the songs noted here, to exhibit the album’s strengths. Between those songs not noted here and the songs more directly discussed, the whole of Ready or Not proves to be not only another welcome offering from The Not-Its, but another welcome offering that is also among the year’s top new family music albums.
The Not-Its’ latest full-length studio recording Ready Or Not – its eighth – is another welcome offering from the veteran kindie-rock quintet that is also without argument one of the year’s top new family music albums. That is proven in part through the album’s opener/title track. The song’s “poppy” upbeat guitar-driven musical arrangement is an infectious indie-rock type of opus that wastes no time getting stuck in listeners’ ears and minds. That includes not just children, but grown-ups, too. Drummer Michael Welke’s work, pushing the 16th notes on the hi-hat couples with the guitars to keep the song moving forward. This critic’s own view of the work (being a drummer/percussionist, too) is that using eighth notes on the hi-hat would have been just as good as 16ths thanks to the song’s fast-moving 4/4 time signature. Either way, it still works. That high-energy arrangement compliments the energy exuded in a game of Hide-and-Seek.
The lyrical side of ‘Ready Or Not’ couples with that well-thought-out arrangement to make the song stand out even more. Front woman Sarah Shannon steps back on this work, letting her band mates – Danny Adamson (rhythm guitar/vocals), Tom Baisden (lead guitar/vocals), Jennie Helman (bass/vocals) and the previously discussed Welke – take the lead here. The band illustrates the joys of a game of Hide-and-Seek expertly, singing, “Are you ready or not/’Cause here I come/Gonna find you/You can’t hide all day/Did you think that you could pull a fast one on me/Like you did when we were 3/Uh-oh/So let’s go/The game is on.” One can almost see a group of young children, going back and forth with one another here, smiles bright on their faces. Again, going back to the song’s arrangement, that musical side couples with this almost celebratory lyrical content to start the song on the highest note possible. The group goes on to sing, “Are you ready to get caught/’Cause here I come/I see you hiding in the closet, yeah-yeah/Did you think I wouldn’t see your feet/I even heard you try to hold in a sneeze/Now you’re it/You’re it/The game is on!” Again , here is that clear joy and innocence of childhood. It is something to which listeners of every age can relate. Children will relate because they enjoy that play and innocence every day. Adults will relate as it will take them back to those days of innocence and joy. Through it all, it will put a smile on every listener’s face. That is even more the case when the lyrical content is coupled with that catchy, indie-pop rock arrangement. All things considered, it makes the song a clear example of what makes Ready Or Not another welcome offering from The Not-Its. It is just one of the songs that supports that statement. ‘The Battle of Curriculum Night’ is another work that shows what makes Ready or Not so enjoyable.
‘The Battle of Curriculum Night’ stands out primarily because of its lyrical content. The song takes on a “battle” about which every parent knows – the battle of funding for America’s public schools. The band notes in the song’s lyrical side, “Budget cuts seem to be driving my parents nuts/My school is over-enrolled without enough teachers to go around/Thirty-three students, all in the same class as me/The principal gathers us in the gym/the moms and dads, their arms crossed/Faces turning red/I think there’s gonna be a fight at curriculum night/Try to work it out, but the budget is tight/There’s gonna ba a fight at curriculum night, yeah!” From there, the song continues vividly painting that picture in which every parent has taken part, noting “It’s such a crazy day/Every single person has something to say/The tension is rising, and no one can hear each other anyway/Everyone is there/Grown-ups squeezing into tiny chairs/The teacher seems nervous/Handing out packets to be scrutinized/Parents glare/Don’t see my kid’s artwork anywhere/Don’t you know how gifted they are?” What’s really interesting here is the fact that this whole song is told from the vantage point of a child. This shows on one end that children are far more aware of what is going on than that for which adults give them credit. On another end, presenting the song from a child’s eye also gives a clearer view, showing just how volatile those school meetings can and do get. Add in the fact that few, if any, other family music acts have ever tackled the issue of public school funding – let alone in such a fun fashion – and the song becomes even more important an addition to this album.
While the lyrical content presented in this song is obviously important to the song’s whole, it is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its musical arrangement adds to its enjoyment. Many listeners might not be familiar with the reference, but the song’s mid-tempo arrangement here conjures thoughts of Dinosaur Jr’s classic hit ‘Feel The Pain.’ Given, that song is not as upbeat as this one, but stylistically speaking, the similarity is there, and it is sure to be a welcome comparison for grown-up listeners who are familiar with the band and its work. Considering this along with the thought-provoking lyrical content in this song, the whole is yet another clear example of what makes Ready Or Not another positive effort from The Not-Its. It is not the last example of what makes this record either, just as the album’s opener/title track was not the only example either. ‘Runaway Bike,’ which comes a little later on in the album’s run, is one more example of what makes the album stand out.
‘Runaway Bike’ stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. Much like the arrangements in the previously discussed works, this upbeat work’s bass and guitar-driven arrangement is very clearly an indie-rock style presentation that is sure to appeal to older audiences of said genre. Its lyrical content is just as interesting as that catchy arrangement. That is because it is wide open to interpretation. Shannon sings here of a child who is sitting on his/her bike in the driveway of his/her home, imagining what it would be like to go off on a journey around the world. What is so interesting about this is the manner in which this story is presented. On one hand, the song leaves one wondering if this is supposed to be a child imagining running away, which after all, what child has not done this after an argument with his/her parents? On another hand, it could just as easily be a song about a child simply dreaming of that great voyage, instead of the thought of running away. The interpretations are made as Shannon sings from the child’s vantage point, “Get on my bike and ride/I’ll go it alone/And by tomorrow I might reach the state line/I’m leaving home/I don’t know why/Now that I’ve left the state I’m in Idaho/My next destination is the Atlantic Coast Line/Runaway Bike, let’s ride.” The single line in which she sings, “I’m leaving home/I don’t know why” is one of the reasons that the interpretation of the song’s story is wide open. Such a statement leaves one wondering if this is perhaps just a young person having that familiar dream of going out into the world. Shannon goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I’m standing on the beach/In search of a boat heading to Europe/With room for me and my bike/Starting to miss my old life/Landed in Portugal/I pedaled my way to Prague/Now I’m in China-I can see the Great Wall/Runaway Bike go home/I’m a little runaway.” The song closes with its subject opening his/her eyes after seeing the visions in his/her head of those travels, realizing he/she not run away.” So again, the interpretation is left up in the air. Is this a child dreaming of running away, having noted that he/she would miss home and his/her family? Is it the story of a child simply dreaming of going out and exploring the world? It would be interesting to discover which story was being told here. Either way, the fact that the song can be interpreted in either way because of the band’s talent with words here, shows such talent and obvious thought put into the work. When this talent is considered along with the enjoyment of the song’s musical arrangement, the two elements together make this song one more example of what makes Ready Or Not another enjoyable offering from The Not-Its. When it is considered along with the other songs discussed here, and the rest of the album’s works, the album in whole proves to be a work that is a positive new offering from the group, and without argument, one of the year’s top new family music albums.
The Not-Its’ latest full-length studio recording Ready Or Not is another strong, welcome offering from the Seattle, WA-based kindie rock band. It is a record that is without argument, one of the year’s top new family music albums. That is proven through the songs noted in this review and those not directly discussed. The songs, in whole, present an album that celebrates the innocence of childhood, in all of its highs and lows. It is a work to which children and grown-ups alike can and will relate through that celebration. It is available now. More information on Ready Or Not is available online now along with all of The Not-Its’ latest news and more at:
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