Polaris, "Hey Sandy" (Polaris; 1999). iTunes
Camper Van Beethoven, "Take the Skinheads Bowling" (IRS; 1985). iTunes
Supergrass, "Alright" (Capitol; 1995). iTunes
Edan, "Beautiful Food" (Lewis; 2002).
Cibo Matto, "Sci-Fi Wasabi" (Warner Bros.; 1999). iTunes
Ash, "Kung Fu" (Reprise; 1996).
Fountains of Wayne, "Survival Car" (Tag; 1996). iTunes
Bis, "Kandy Pop" (Grand Royal; 1995).
The Futureheads, "Robot" (Sire; 2004). iTunes
Brendan Benson, "Insects Rule" (Virgin; 1996).
S.P.O.C.K., "Alien Attack" (Subspace; 1998). iTunes
The Dead Milkmen, "Punk Rock Girl" (Enigma; 1988). iTunes
Mojo Nixon, "Elvis Is Everywhere" (Enigma; 1987). iTunes
The Apples in Stereo, "Tidal Wave" (spinART; 1995). iTunes
Violent Femmes, "Waiting for the Bus" (Reprise; 1993). iTunes
Devo, "Through Being Cool" (Warner Bros.; 1981). iTunes
Like any meddling older sibling, I insist on having a hand in Little Brother's cultural upbringing. In just a few months, LB turns 13 and begins his ascent from young, They Might Be Giants–listening weirdo to college-rock know-it-all. Before the schooling gets too heavy, here's one last lesson in frivolity to smooth the transition. (Note: Any relation this track list has to my own formative years is purely coincidental. It's not my fault the '90s produced a lot of goofy, kid-friendly pop.)
As the jangly theme from Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete and Pete, "Hey Sandy" should be the fight song for all little brainiacs. LB is just old enough to remember the show's surreal take on suburbia, which acts as an excellent primer for David Lowery's tale of bowling alleys and knee-licking.
Hip-hop ain't exactly the natural progression for a kid in central Wisconsin. Maybe in a couple years I'll buy him 3 Feet High and Rising, but for now, he gets Edan's grocery list, countered by some Cibo Matto to show that women can also lay down rhymes about food. And bikes. And Obi-Wan Kenobi. Never mind the expletives; LB hears far worse from our grandmother any time the president appears on CNN.
"Kung Fu" is a no-brainer, the song three Irish teenagers could have written specifically for 12-year-old boys. In fact, this disc covers all manner of man-child interests: Robots! Bugs! Space! And just imagine how excellent War of the Worlds could have been had it been scored by a Swedish synth-pop band.
After the Dead Milkmen's romantic encounter in a Philadelphia record store, it's only fair to quell the burning question: Who is Mojo Nixon? When I was the kid's age, I was won over by the video where Mr. Nixon plants ice-cream cones on his forehead like devil horns. Here, I'll have to depend on the brilliance of the man's words ("Elvis is in Nutty Buddies!") to do the trick.
Throughout, this mix is lovingly padded with the kind of summery, Popsicles-and-grass-stains tunes typified by "Tidal Wave." As an added bonus, the Apples in Stereo's Fun Trick Noisemaker makes a nice serendipitous soundtrack to Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, which I'll probably force LB to read at some point.
After starting him down a path of musical outcasts, I had no choice but to cap the whole thing off with "Through Being Cool." If the kid hasn't already figured it out, this isn't just a mix CD, it's a way of life.
Lindsey Thomas is a staff writer for City Pages. She lives in Minneapolis.