Review By WHATZUP! Beasts By The Bunches by Jason Hoffman
Mifflin Lowe is a lover of words. In his writings they playfully topple over each other like a kindle of kittens or a gaggle of geese. It's only fitting then that he should pen Beasts By The Bunches, a collection of poems celebrating the imaginative names given to groups of animals. As this is the music review page and not the book review section, Mifflin created a capricious collection of songs based on these poems, merely as a personal favor to me and the fruit of my loins.
A good idea of the whimsical wordplay to follow comes from the opening lyric: "Everyone's heard of a herd of cows." This track, "Beasts By The Bunches Theme," introduces the concept of the album with spoken word, sung chorus, a muppet marching band romp and a bevy of colorful musical timbres and animal noises . The following 18 tracks are an assortment of songs and dramatically read poems that attempt to join the character of the animal group in question to a style of music.
"A Smack of Jellyfish," a favorite in the Hoffman household, floats about on a simple piano accompaniment while silly sounds and a squishy show choir sings about the perils of being a clumsy jellyfish. What sounds like a group of male New Jersey backhoe operators sing an earnest song about "A Labor of Moles" and light, Celtic guitars and angelic voices accompany the inspirational "An Exaltation of Larks." The authentic country & western footstomper, "A Rag of Colts," tells the story of a rowdy bunch of quadrupeds ("They're impossible to stop / When they're feeling their oats") which is a perfect foil to the breezy mellow samba of "A Leap of Leopards." Other songs go in for show tunes ("A Muster of Peacocks") or vaudeville ("A Troop of Kangaroos"), jazzy rock ("A Pride of Lions"), Latin (the cowbell-driven "A Crash of Rhinos") or do-wop ("A Murder of Crows").
Seven of the tracks are dramatically enacted poems complete with sound effects, vibrant character voices and subliminal musical backing. "A Gaggle of Geese" is a fine example, read by the author who voices a variety of barnyard animals as they try to figure out just who strangled a gaggle of geese.
As you might surmise, a touch of Roald Dahl-type wickedly dark humor is present on Beasts By The Bunches, so you can be sure it will please your jaded tots and any pre-middle schoolers in your home, as well as certain parents who aren't afraid to teeter on the far side of normal. Mifflin Lowe proves himself to be an amicable, capable ringleader for this erratic musical adventure that brims with wonderfully written poems and imagination-sparking lyrics.
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