Armed with their skinny ties, pink tutus and grungy guitars The Not-Its! have exploded onto the American music scene, with their unique brand of family entertainment. Their latest album Raise Your Hand is excellent, drawing on influences from sixties psychedelia, seventies new wave and nineties grunge, and delivered with uncompromising power.
An attempt to make a video with an uncooperative cat may have inspired the opening track “Funniest Cat Video,” where an exploding guitar introduces the pristine vocals of Sarah Shannon. The song reveals the band has a sense of humour, and is able to deliver music that is cool, sophisticated and amusing. “When I Fell” hints at their Seattle roots, particularly through the grungy guitar intro, which can be heard screaming out of each speaker. “Motorcycle Mom” benefits from some engaging guitar melodies throughout, and a very catchy chorus. “Bee’s Knees” emphasises the importance of bees in the food chain, and does so through a child’s perspective, highlighting the declining bee population.
The title track “Raise Your Hand” invites the listener into the classroom, accompanied by an interesting orchestration of vocal harmonies slightly reminiscent of Queen. The grungy rhythm provides background noise to this lyrical lesson in early development, emphasising the importance of raising your hand to be heard. “Nose In A Book” further explores educational matters with Jennie Helman’s hypnotic bass leading the way. Additional potency is achieved through punchy guitars and defiant lyrics, revealing the frustration of the imaginative child forced to put a book away by an overtly officious teacher. Any song that values reading is all right by me, as the bookworm fights back, and about time too.
There is also an interesting flirtation with nostalgia on the album, where the past is revisited, in order to be shared with the next generation. “Hey Eighties” takes the informed parent on a trip down memory lane, where Rubik’s Cube, Ghostbusters and break dancing are some of the themes explored where cherished memories are delivered into a melting microphone. “Great Day” is optimistic, unfolding like a celebration of life, harnessing lyrics that remind the more mature listener of the timeless flight of early childhood, and of more innocent days.
However eclectic the song content appears, there is nonetheless a unifying musical style throughout. The music revels in a consistent flirtation with punk, psychedelia and grunge. “Haircut,” although lyrically bearing some resemblance to Crosby Stills and Nash or the Troggs, is delivered with a raw even venomous reaction to the threat of a haircut, somewhat reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s “Pump it Up”. This conflation of musical influences serves the band well throughout. “Love Is Love” further embraces the psychedelic feel, as a wafting melody serenades an image of the love shared during a family meal. Social issues are also addressed, as we are reminded, “love is patient and always kind, even if your family doesn’t look like mine”.
The album also benefits from some quite sophisticated arrangements. Captivating harmonies are utilised throughout, and on tracks such as “Mosquito Eater” in particular, the boy girl vocal blend seems to add to the energy and overall vibe of the song. The track “Echo” is also enhanced by a kind of reciprocal vocal effect, to further dramatise a family excursion to the Grand Canyon. The song “Waiting List” a kind of cathartic rant against the frustrations of standing in line, incorporates some skilful drumming from Michael Welke, punctuating the melody to great effect. The dual guitars of Tom Baisden and Danny Adamson effortlessly complement each other throughout the album, utilising the necessary space, and playing off each other to great effect. The guitars can also really tear it up where required on tracks such as “Flannel Jammies” where the hard-hitting guitar, reminded me a little of the Cult’s “Wild Flower”.
This album has fifteen superb songs, sung with vocals as clear as crystal and delivered with music as powerful as an electric storm. Whether singing about ordinary everyday events, educational values, environmental concerns, love or even nostalgia it is all here in one unifying and compelling piece of work. The music is energetic, powerful and highly melodic, and the subject matter is both cheerful and engaging. If this band is as good live as they are in the studio, they would certainly be worth watching. So all you motorcycle moms, do yourself a favour, check out The Not-Its! and have a truly “Great Day”.