Oh, Generation X and Y, how old you’ve gotten. You’ve got your tattoos, your piercings, your exceptionally coveted collection of ironic thrift store t-shirts, your Flickr accounts filled with photos of you and your friends at Lollapalooza, you and your friends at your wedding…and, of course, more photos than you ever thought possible of this new little baby creature that you’ve brought into this world. You used to go on and on about freeing Tibet, and now your friends are lucky if they can change the subject from teething to the health benefits of organic cotton. You’re a young, hip, socially conscious parent, and you’re gonna make sure your kid is exposed to young, hip, socially conscious kid stuff.
Seeing that music is a huge part of your social identity, you’re certainly going to make sure that your kid hears amazing music from day one. There will be no Kidz Bop for your baby. So who do you turn to for children’s music for your lo-fi-indie-rocker-to-be? Kimya Dawson, of course. Her whimsical wordplay and simple-but-catchy melodies already seem one step away from children's music, so who better to step up and make an album for hip indie parents?
Alphabutt is definitely the anti-Barney. Dawson has created a little kid’s dream world filled with favorite doggies, tigers in your underwear drawer, bears splashing around, lots of bodily function humor (the cover features a parade of animals all farting the alphabet), and this country’s capitalist-based food distribution system that keeps poor people hungry and rich people fed. Okay, maybe that last bit wouldn’t exactly come into play in a little kid’s dream world, but on Alphabutt, you’re gonna get some radical politics delivered with your animal noises.
The ultimate criterion of the worth of a children’s record is whether real live kids dig it. Dawson knows this, being a mom herself, and the record is peppered with the excited hoots and hollers of her own daughter Panda, along with various children of friends of hers, and they all sound genuinely gleeful throughout. Of course, it’s also important that parents can tolerate repeated listens; once a kid likes something, you’ll be hard-pressed to get them to listen to anything else. Alphabutt is 27 minutes long, but if mommy has a headache, it just might seem like the longest 27 minutes of her life.
What's most endearing about Alphabutt is how the record has varying levels of meaning and messages that makes it a suitable listen for a wider age range. Sure, everybody can understand the silly fun of “Wiggle My Tooth,” but Dawson also includes more nuanced numbers like “Happy Home (Keep On Writing),” on which she imparts the important message that what matters is being yourself, being proud of who you are, and getting the most out of life: a message that kids of all ages need to hear more often. Sincerity of this magnitude is rare, and judging from Dawson’s MySpace page, it’s clear where her heart lies; not only does she gush about her baby and her husband (who she calls “the most wonderful little creature to ever exist” and “the best daddy ever,” respectively), but she also champions cloth-diapering with an enthusiasm most couldn’t muster for a presidential election. This is what ultimately makes Alphabutt a top-notch kids record: that it was recorded by a woman so in love with her kid and with being a mother that you’d happily let her babysit for your wonderful little creature. Plus, if you’re lucky, she’ll rock your baby to sleep with a charming indie lullaby.