Home is Portland in the US for musician Mo Phillips but his wife is Australian – hence the odd platypus and ‘mullet hair-do’ references creeping into his lyrics.
The first thing I noticed about Mo Phillips’ newest album, Monster Suit, is the wonderful pacing of the fourteen tracks. The shift from snappy country tunes to bluesy ballads to early rock and roll inspired songs is perfectly timed – kids listening to the whole album will be in turn up and dancing or soaking up the sounds. Clearly Phillips has put a lot of thought into the order of the songs and the moments of light and shade on Monster Suit are spot on.
To Australian ears, the sound on Monster Suit is predominantly country with a good measure of ‘lo-fi’ rock’n'roll thrown in. The album has been described as a “…blend of Americana, soul and blues”, if that helps set the tone!
There’s a bunch of songs that the pre-school set will particularly enjoy – the surprising Ducks Don’t Get Wet, the chugga chugga rhythm of Big Red Truck and the nonsense story that is Suction Cup. The title track, Monster Suit, is fantastic – I only wish it went for longer than a minute because I’m sure there’s an opportunity in there for kids who are scared of monsters to make it their bedtime theme song.
Another winner is Hot Lava – it will be a huge hit with any kid that has pretended the floor is infested with crocodiles/ a black hole/ covered in hot lava while they jump from one piece of furniture to the next – “Don’t fall off the couch cause the carpet is lava…” Simple and fun.
While I like a ‘novelty’ song – the type written specifically for young audiences – it is the more serious songs that work best on Monster Suit. The sweet story-telling in The Princess and The Cowboy is beautiful – it’s about a little boy that wants to be a princess and a little girl that wants to be a cowboy – “Oh no it doesn’t matter what you do just how you do it, Make sure it’s full of happiness and heart…” Sentiments to live by.
The real gem is All Okay. It’s a stunningly beautiful song with the simple message that a kiss and a cuddle can make things ‘all okay’. It kills me that songs like All Okay get ‘stuck’ on children’s albums – they deserve a wider audience. It’s on this track that Phillips’ uncomplicated style and masterful harmonies are shown-off best.
Monster Suit is available via iTunes for $16.99 or at CD Baby for US$12.99 plus shipping.