Album review: The Rockin’ Rhinos – Crash!

Band background

A while ago, I wrote about The Rockin’ Rhinos when we went to their Christmas gig. We still attend them because finding live music for children that isn’t toe-curlingly cute is almost impossible which is why the Rhinos still have top spot for us. Henceforth, we were at the album launch party yesterday afternoon (possibly their best performance yet), and it’s why we have a copy of the new album, Crash!, in our grubby little paws.

The Rockin’ Rhinos were born from a wish to make real music for children that was fun, educational AND something parents would enjoy too. They have built a solid reputation that has seen their performances expand out to music festivals, like Geronimo, alongside their stock MMU Union appearances.

The band of wild animals is fronted by the lovingly shambolic John Cooper Cat whose vocals manage to pull punk tempos, acerbic rap, soaring seventies melodies but with a softness that means he’s never threatening to a four year old. In fact, my girls love him. JCC isn’t alone.

the band in full

Vocals are also supplied with Bez like humour by Guy the Gorilla (when he’s not consuming massive riders of bananas) and Bernard the Bear, also on bass, who has a beatifically gentle voice. Lead guitar is cooly played by Debra the Zebra, Tim the Tiger plays a funky rhythm guitar, playful but solid drums by Liam the Lion and soaring keyboard by Mani the Mouse. Can you see a theme here?

The first album mostly preceded the live gigs because the band has roots in the advantage of music for EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) education. As such, the first album had a combination of original compositions and adapted familiar nursery rhymes that incorporated actions and movement. Over the past year or so they have been working on the second album.

Crash!

crash cover

This second album features songs that have been tried and tested at previous gigs along with new compositions (original and adapted). They’re all brought together by a coherent Rhinos sound that, whilst original, begs, borrows and steals from music that hails from the mid 1970’s through to the mid 1990’s (the target parent demographic).

Think Marc Bolan, feather boa held aloft, wending his way through a hazy party attended by The Beatles, The Clash, The Ramones, David Bowie, Supertramp, Electric Light Orchestra, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, James Brown, Salt’n’Pepa, Oasis, Jurassic 5….the attendees are numerous, and whilst some may seem surprising, on the album they’re having a great love in.

tea drinking cat

The current standout tracks on Crash, according to the whims of my daughters, are:

Breakfast Song

A godsend to parents who have to cajole their children through their morning cereal and toast. It’s a very funky Ian Dury referencing composition with lyrics that make us all smile out loud:

‘Croissant, brioche, oh la la! Pain au chocolate, un, deux, trois…I’m sure there’s lots of things I’ve missed so what would make it on your breakfast list? JAM JAM JAM jam jam jam!’

I woke the my eldest to the sounds of Breakfast Song this morning and for once she didn’t wail her displeasure at being disturbed.

H.T. Dumpty

It starts out as a very jaunty but traditional acoustic delivery of the nursery rhyme every child knows, but it doesn’t take long until a mirthful rap comes through:

‘here’s my story, it’s sad but true, I’m Humpty the egg man, coo coo coo choo, I thought I knew best, thought I knew it all, it’s true what they say about pride and a fall’.

The Book Song

If ELO wrote about their love of books and the escapism they offer then TBS would have been penned by them. My eldest adores the references to all the different books and was quite astounded that the band had read Milly Molly Mandy and The BFG. It also has the most delicious guitar middle eight.

Dino Rap

To be a sure fire attraction to small children then it must be mandatory to write about dinosaurs and my youngest would agree. The loosely delivered rap lyrics are set against a rich background of brass and bass in a style that definitely makes me think of J5, muddy festival fields and late nights.

Aiken Drum

I don’t think you can get more traditional that this Scottish originating Jacobite folk song and it possibly wouldn’t be heard by smalls so commonly now. Set against a reggae influenced two step rhythm that instigates a healthy round of dosey does for the chorus makes it both a great recorded and live number.

Hoojamaflurb

For any parent whose child has had night terrors or is afraid of scary things that await around every corner then this is the perfect song. It turns the terroriser into one in need of a mere hug. I might try this with my eldest who is still sure particular shadows are menacing.

‘There’s a Doodah at the the door, the Doodah’s really deadly, I’m petrified, ahhhhhhh! So next time you are frightened of something that you do not know, remember that it might be frightened too, so remember what you must do…give it a hug, give it a hug’

N’awwww. Not Cameron’s Hug a Hoodie policy but perhaps the more workable monster version.

Bitz n Bobs

This has been a live staple for quite some time and rightly so. If my girls take a leaf out of this song I’ll be amazed but they do love the song’s lyrics with the refrain of ‘if you see any bits and bobs on the floor, put them in the relevant box or drawer’. This is delivered by Rita the Cheetah, a young slip of a kitten with an attitude and calm delivery that the girls are in awe of. The chorus is handled by JCC until both parts of the song come together in an excellent mash up.

I.W. Spider

It was the familiarity of this song and the associated actions, delivered in an Egyptian influenced rippling rendition by Bernard the Bear that finally drew my youngest out of her shell at the gig. The soaring electric guitar is a bonus.

Love The Skin You’re In

The Rhinos are really good at capturing small anxieties or major issues and making them beautiful. They did this in a such a touching way on the first album with The Growing Up Song about choosing whatever you want to do in life; it still makes me feel a bit emotional. LTSYI goes for slightly silly but with a hugely important message too using glorious harmonies and the deepest and funkiest bass guitar ever.

cat and gorilla singing

And finally

To be honest all the tracks on the album could have been highlighted here as there isn’t a single filler one on there. I’m sure preferences will change and the girls can’t wait to see the music video for If It Looks Like A…which is currently in the works.

This is a rounded, funny, interesting, joyous and engaging offering from the Rhinos that will have great longevity in our house. Even if the girls don’t know what long player means.

Expect the CD album to be available shortly via Bandcamp and downloads via iTunes. You can also buy it at the gigs which is the best way IMHO.

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