Friday, March 20th, 2009
Music Review: Emphatical Piratical by Captain Bogg & Salty
So I’ve just picked up this new CD at the post office and I take a listen while driving home. The first song blows me away and I think, “We’ve got to see them in concert.” At home, I covertly slip the CD into the player and my 4-year-old daughter starts jumping around the room. A spark of recognition flashes across my wife’s face and she says, “We should go to one of their concerts.”
Hey, it’s only a 7-hour drive. Maybe we’ll go.
Truly great children’s music is stuff both you and your kids love. I don’t mean inculcating your child by playing the tamer tunes you enjoyed in high school. (Seriously. Teach your toddler that word. It’s a cheap and easy way to impress friends.)
Great children’s music gets your kids jazzed the first time they hear it, and is written for them, yet you play it in the car when your kids aren’t along for the ride. Captain Bogg and Salty is one of those bands for us. Billed as “buccaneer rock for pirates of all ages” it leads the pirate rock scene of Portland, Oregon.
Our introduction to Bogg & Salty was with their Pegleg Tango CD a couple years ago with its awesome song Pieces of 8ight (embedded below). It remains a favorite in our home.
Sorry, there are no music videos for the latest CD yet. Here are our favorite tracks though…
1. The title song, Emphatical Piratical, is something of a lyrical masterpiece. As a first-time parent, I debated the notion of pirates as pretend characters for my then 2-year-old daughter. In a literal sense they’re not as wholesome as, say, a firefighter, doctor or police officer. I eventually smacked myself upside the head and realized I was overanalyzing things.
I’ll be pleased if my daughter, when she’s 7-years-old, still enjoys Bogg instead of the torrent of truly hideous, skanky music that pervades popular culture. I’ll count myself lucky if she gets into a little Anne Bonny lore and eventually attends the University of Chicago.
Emphatical Piratical answers the lingering question, “Are you really real pirates?” Or, as parents could interpret it, “Just what are you teaching my kids anyway?” Here’s the introduction to their answer…
“Emphatical Piractical, impractical, not factual, fictional and mythical, conditional, historical, nautical, fantastical, aesthetical, theatrical, exceptional and comical, even paralogical. WE ARE PIRATES! Of the make-believing kind. WE ARE PIRATES! Of the type you hope to find. WE ARE PIRATES! Of imaginary stock. WE ARE PIRATES! Singing buccaneering rock!”
[Listen to this snippet to put the words in lyrical context.]
The verbiage is over my daughter’s head, but it hits me right between the eyes. The song sets the tone for the entire CD… Their previous CD included references to some of the grimmer aspects of pirateology while Emphatical Piractical is much friendlier to the gentle psyche of new parents such as myself.
Set to the music of “Galop Infernal” from Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach, our family knows it as “the Can-Can song” from Beethoven’s Wig. My daughter observed, “Now we know two songs that use the same music.” She then tried to convince her mother they could sing the two songs together simultaneously.
2. Don’t drink the sea water — It’s another fast paced jump-a-thon with the pirate chorus shouting a refrain of, “Don’t drink the sea water!” The lyrics are a reminder that these guys aren’t playing around. A great deal of thought goes into these songs and a byproduct is a wealth of educational material if you actually dissect the lyrics.
“I understand you’re thirsty mate,
and the ocean looks so cool.
But if you chug it down,
your brain will shrivel up on you.
You won’t know port from starboard,
and you won’t know stem from stern.
Your mind will go right off the map,
and never will return.
With no train on your anchor,
you’ll drift forever more.
You’ll only go in circles,
‘Cause you’re rowing with one oar.”
3. Bunnyjacks. — This is my daughter’s favorite. Again, genius lyrics, and she loves that it’s about pirate bunnies. She hops around the room instead of jumping.
“There’s something ‘board a pirate ship,
that almost no one knows about.
A secondary crew aboard,
that sails it when the lamp is out.
Hoppin’ ’round the riggings,
and nibblin’ on the cords,
chewing on the cap stem,
and rowing on the oars.
One night I heard a scary noise,
It shook me from my hammock bed.
I followed it up to the deck,
but then I slipped and bumped me head.
Something soggy woke me,
A mop across me neck.
A blurry crew of bunny jacks,
Was swabbing down the deck.”
One can only hope the band tackles Richard Scarry’s Pie Rats with its next ditty.
4. Waltz of the Waves is my personal pick. It’s a whistful, slow song reflection upon the good old times, when [band member] Buckle was still a pirate, and oh, what wonderfully happy times he and his friends had. “We were so happy, all day… dancing… dancing… waltzing the waltz of the waves.” There are a couple other songs like it on the band’s previous CD, Sea Monster and What It’s Really Like on a Ship.
It’s maybe an odd pick as my favorite, but as you get entrenched in these songs, it’s a curious thing. You can’t imagine a real pirate thoughtfully reflecting upon the meaning of life, but here 250 years later, a bunch of grown men can dress up, strap on instruments and create poetry imagining pirate life through a contemporary lens.
On one level, Captain Bogg and Salty are just about kids and adults having fun dancing and rocking out. On another level, you can tell pirate rock isn’t just some KISS-like dress-up gimmick. Captain Bogg and Salty demonstrate a genuine fondness for the real and imagined worlds they create in their songs. It’s just a lot of fun.