‘Smile’ by Mike Park

There comes a point in all of our lives; if we are lucky enough to live as long; that we inevitably begin looking back at what we had and remember what was. For some of us, it’s an ongoing life of second guessing and it can be a hindrance. Others take the past with a grain of salt and seize the day. However for others of us we are able to process the past as what it was and realize how to make our past our relevant for our present. So it is for father, artist, and producer Mike Park and his latest solo effort of kids music.

“What’s that,” you ask; “Mike Park? The punk and ska musician?”

Indeed they are one in the same. Many fans of ska music may be familiar with Park as the saxophonist and singer for Skankin’ Pickle. But his latest solo effort (distributed under his own Asian Man Record label) “Smile,” has much more to do with his present circumstance and the melding of that with his rich history in music.

“Smile” is not like other kids albums you may be accustomed to hearing. There are drums, bass, electric guitar, lyrics which can reach a fever pitch sometimes. But with titles like “Apples Are My Favorite,” “Everybody Loves to Jump,” and “I Can See the Ocean,” and applicable lyrics for these tunes, one can begin to get an idea of the type of rocking out kids listening to “Smile” will do.

Park has been playing music professionally since 1985 and he has achieved some level of indie acclaim. However it was more than 20 years after beginning his music career that he welcomed his first child into the world in 2006. After taking some time off from music (and welcoming a second child into his home) Park took a look in the mirror and liked what he saw.

Obviously you have to have a love of fatherhood and children and being a dad to even try to put out a record like “Smile.” But as someone who doesn’t have any kids can tell you; this record is something I would have welcomed a lot more in my childhood than “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or other ‘kid’ songs. The tunes on “Smile” are short, uptempo, but warm and inviting.

If you weren’t listening to the lyrics the songs on “Smile” could very easily be confused for songs from another punk or ska record. However Park keeps things on the down low and makes sure to remember his target audience. He does remember his audience and “Smile” is a really great and really ingenious record. Get ready to begin hearing more kids records like this as the generation who rejected this music as soon as they knew better comes of age.

“Wiggly, Wiggly Worm,” is a fun danceable song; “When the Light Turns Red You Stop” even is a teachable tune with the light being green and their being music, the light turning yellow and there being heightened tension, and the light turning red and all the music dropping out for just a little bit longer than listeners may expect from an adult song. That’s because this is a kids song, a kids album; and you have to be able to get the attention of the kids.

Imagine all the lives who could be saved from this increased awareness from kids at such a young age. Staggering, really.

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