Mike Park 

Smile

At a certain point in a career, many an author or musician will release a children's book or children's album. Add legendary Skankin' Pickle frontman Mike Park to that list. Park's version is oddly amazing. In fact, it is his strongest post-Skankin' Pickle product to date, which says something, considering the number of other albums he's released, both as a solo artist and with two side bands.

Like Park's previous work, Smile is simple, pop-oriented, ska-punk. The songs are fun, light-hearted, well-written, and refreshingly full of energy. Most importantly, they are cute and wholesome in a way that's not excruciating. For Park, it's a natural fit.

Although Park hews to his traditional style, he also sticks with the theme, writing songs about jumping, wiggling worms, little green frogs, healthy snacks, etc. Park's songwriting usually works best when he's in a playful, humorous mode, and the beauty of this project is that it provides him with that outlet. Youthful listeners won't find it strange that he's rhapsodizing about juicy delicious apples, for instance.

Some of the most enjoyable tracks are the interactive ones, like "Everybody Loves to Jump" (which includes directives for jumping and hand-clapping) and "Turn Off the Lights" (an educational song about conserving energy). Strongest of all is the opening track, "Wiggly Wiggly Worm," which is both a children's story and a radio-worthy, sing-along pop song.

The cover art is also terrific; drawn by ex-Link 80 ska-punker Adam Davis, it features turtles, rabbits, robots, tuba-playing octopi, and dancing pizzas. On the inside sleeve there are some drawings for kids to color in, too. Cute. (Asian Man Records)

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