Secret Agent 23 Skidoo: Gateway Funk

Reading Time: 4 minutes
c. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
c. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

(disclaimer: free review copy, honest opinion, etc.)

We’re big music people in this house and there isn’t a genre excluded. The kids still enjoy the same tunes that got them boogying in utero (Bollywood, Michael Bublé, CCR, Carla Bruní, myriad others) as well as pretty much anything else we throw at them. I always have music on in the car and it’s rare that I write or cook or, you know, exist, in silence. The boy’s current favorite selection is Hamilton, with “Battle of Yorktown,” “Guns n Ships,” and “Right Hand Man,” being the most frequently requested tracks while the girl’s is the Star WarsThe Force Awakens soundtrack with an approximately even split between “Rey’s Theme” and “I Can Fly Anything” (which she calls “Finn and Poe”).

We’ve never been big into the kid-specific music and, to be honest, that was a selfish decision on my part. I find much of it banal and frankly irritating and, as with so many kids books, I feel a lot of artists think “kid-friendly” and “inane” are synonymous. They are not. I won’t claim all of the music we listen to is, strictly speaking, kid-friendly; we do a lot of Dread Crew of Oddwood whose lyrics are… erm… openly piratical in nature, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, while reserved with his use of less savory vocabulary doesn’t shy away from it either (we’ve established a policy of “you can say whatever you want in the house as long as you use the words properly and they aren’t directed at a person” with the small ones). Stinky One’s first show, at age four, was The Aquabats at Mister Smalls and both kids have been to the symphony.

The only real “kid’s”music we’ve imbibed on any sort of regular basis are They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science, ABC, and 123 albums, though there are only so many times even a child of the ’80s and early ’90s can hear the “sun is a mass of incandescent gas…” so when the opportunity arose to experience a new album that fit right into our pretty tight “kid’s” music criteria (not condescending, not irritating, educational) we were pretty excited.

The kids were initially a little resistant to Infinity Plus One because they were annoyed at me for playing it instead of Hamilton. Once it got going, however, there was some very adorable dancing and even some humming. During “Secret Superhero,” my son turned to me and said, “Yeah, okay, mom, I like this.”

Score one for Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and funk.

Keep in mind that kids, especially those who are routine-oriented like my son, often need to experience things a few times before they get comfortable with it, and funk isn’t something they’ve had a ton of exposure too purely because there is so very much music in the world and they’re only six and four. We do listen to our local public music radio station, WYEP, so they’ve heard snatches when we happen have the station running during DJ Selecta’s Grand Groove Radio show or Roots and Rhythm Mix, but that’s about the extent of it because there are only so many hours in the day.

Infinity Plus One is an excellent way to start their funk education.

Because they’re already engaged in math and science, both as educational and musical subjects, once they’ve been through the album a few times and start to recognize the themes, they will most certainly be drawn in in a way standard funk might not achieve and engage their developing synapses. That the language is kid-friendly but silly sweet is another huge bonus: Baby Beluga doesn’t do much for kids who are used to singing about the periodic table and the Bloodmobile, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is very clearly in the latter camp, approaching complex subjects like My First Multiverse in simple, but not simplistic language.

The tunage has a definite beat while maintaining a chill vibe that makes it great for car travel and downtime. While I’m more a fan of the horns and sax iteration of the style, I think it can sometimes be a bit aggressive for little ears as regards extended play (and I definitely have a threshold) which, again, makes Infinity Plus One a great introductory album: one can play it for longer and more often without coming up against that place where the blaring wah-wah gets to be too much.

c. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
c. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

There’s a lot of instrumental on Infinity Plus One, which makes it an excellent background soundtrack to crafts, homework, and other sorts of play. I found myself head bobbing though the kids definitely preferred the tracks with lyrics; they both like to sing (or scream words in phrases ranging from tunefulness to not so much). They like to interject musical phrases into every day conversation then giggle like maniacs (“Hey, honey, do you want to try this?” “Sure mom, I’m not throwing away my shot”) and song lyrics are a tool my husband and I use when we really need to hold their attention (“Here comes the General” means “hush up and listen,” for example). They also find it an effective way to communicate with one another; it allows them to engage in prepared dialogue to get a point across, dialogue that has a known outcome and thus, cuts down on what has become, since the end of school, incessant bickering. I imagine those are the tracks toward which they’ll gravitate on successive plays of the album.

Infinity Plus One is an album that can be enjoyed on different levels by kids and adults, an introduction to funk for those who haven’t had much experience with the genre, and educational without being in one’s face about it. A bit high concept for kids to experience on their own the first few times though, but ultimately satisfying for any and all listeners. Definitely an excellent edition to any family’s all-ages collection.

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s Infinity Plus One is available now.

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