Our culture has always been a little suspicious of allowing kids into the grown-ups only club of rock’n’roll, and for good reason. For one, the amount of time the kids spend in the limelight is brief compared to the time they spend in rehab, and even more glaringly, most kiddie acts are just bad. I mean, The Jackson 5 was pretty cool, but god, Hanson, Lil’ Bow Wow and LeAnn Rimes on Star Search? Very few amount to any more than trite Wee Sing Kid Songs fare or cheesy covers of songs most people didn’t like in the first place, resulting in something that the generous hate to love, but most just love to hate.
And yet, as they say, the exception proves the rule – and in this case, Smoosh is the exception. The Seattle duo, made up of 12-year-old singer/keyboardist/songwriter Asya and 10-year-old drummer Chloe, is everything that popular media says little girls can’t be: articulate, talented, mature, noisy and intelligent. Asya penned each track on their debut, She Like Electric, and the two play every instrument, all while opening for acts like Death Cab for Cutie and Cat Power.
By the end of the first song, it’s obvious that Smoosh isn’t just another Hilary Duff covering “Our Lips are Sealed.” The 14 tracks on She Like Electric are short and the lyrics fairly simple, but each song is intricately arranged and beautifully vibrant. Asya’s lilting voice is the band’s strongest instrument, an innocent and delicate tool that is dangerously effective against Chloe’s thrashing drums and the accompanying keyboard pulse.
The songs themselves don’t align to any particular style. They range from introspective and haunting ballads (“It’s Cold,” “About the Picture”) to bouncy pop (“I’ve Got My Own Problems to Fix”) and crazed PG punk (“La Pump”). “Rad” even throws in a precocious little girl rap about – what else – not being sad because there are always fun things to do like going out to play soccer. It’s a nice addition, considering that the rest of the tracks lean toward themes of self-actualization, independence and vague ideas of love. The best of these is “Make it Through,” a stunning, multi-layered masterpiece of pounding drums, electric effects and Asya’s tiny voice singing, “If you are what you are and I am, I think we can make it through … `Cuz when we’re gonna go the time is up/ Everyone never comes back and I hope it doesn’t matter.”
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Smoosh is their ability to balance adult talent and sensibility with a child’s perspective and experience. While they are as musically competent as nearly anyone twice (okay, three times) their ages, they don’t come off as ridiculous for pretending to actually be adults. After all, even though Chloe and Asya are old enough to write songs about sacrifice and finding oneself, they’re still young enough to pick a band name like Smoosh.
Dealership – Secret American Livingroom
Tilly and the Wall – Wild Like Children
Mates of State – Team Boo