The Rubinoos: Biff-Boff-Boing!

Kid-friendly album from the kings of power-pop harmony

Though it’s been five years since the Rubinoos released their last album of new material, Twist Pop Sin, they’ve been busy boys (and girl). Tours of Japan and Spain were accompanied by odds ‘n’ sods collections (One Two That’s It and HodgePodge) and their seminal Beserkley recordings finally received the attention they deserved with the 3-CD Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Rubinoos. They played a pair of headline gigs at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall in 2007 and 2008 that showed their vocal and instrumental chops were as sharp (if not sharper) than ever. Founding members Jon Rubin and Tommy Dunbar are joined by long-time bassist and vocalist Al Chan, keyboardist/vocalist Suzy Davis and drummer David Rokeach.

The Rubinoos’ latest album, ostensibly a kid-friendly all-ages collection, includes several favorites from their live set, a few novelty covers, and newly penned songs that will enchant both small fry and parent-mocking ‘tweens. Best of all the Rubinoos’ great singing and playing won’t bludgeon parents into a musical coma when commanded to “play it again!” Tracking through the album you’ll realize the group didn’t have to change course to craft an album pleasing to kids – something that’s farily obvious when you go back and listen to their 1977 cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Their bright pop harmonies – enhanced by doo-wop vocal arrangements Rubin and Dunbar bring from their work with the Mighty Echoes – are pleasing to ears both young and old.

The album opens, as has their live set recently, with a cover of Alvin & The Chipmunks’ “Witch Doctor,” and their covers of the Marathons’ “Peanut Butter” and Eternals’ “Rockin’ in the Jungle” (the latter complete with funny animal imitations) honor the originals with their vocal finesse. Jon Rubin’s voice retains the sweetness of his early years, and he slings out these songs with every bit of the enthusiasm of a twenty-year-old who can’t believe he gets to do this for a living. Tommy Dunbar’s songs also retain the charms of youth, with “Dumb it Down” mining the Jackson Five groove heard in several earlier Rubinoos tunes, and a new version of “Mothers Always Know” remembering teenage life under a parent’s roof.

‘Tweens will love the sarcasm of “Have a Cow” and goofy planetism of “Earth Number One,” while parents will enjoy Suzy Davis’ theatrical rendition of the Who’s “Boris the Spider.” The latter plays well on stage, as does the album’s closing cover of the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar.” The Rubinoos once played agent provocateur with “Sugar Sugar” at Bill Graham’s Winterland, and enchanted fans with an extended jam at London’s Hammersmith Odeon; tightened up to three-minutes the song proves itself the enduring national anthem of the bubblegum world. And nearly forty years after their debut (Bay High Hop, December 1970), the Rubinoos endure as power pop champions, ready and able to rock the next generation of music fans. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Dumb it Down (Clip)
MP3 | Peanut Butter (Clip)
MP3 | Mothers Always Know (Clip)
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One Response to “The Rubinoos: Biff-Boff-Boing!”

  1. Ted Seay says:

    Great review — but “Mothers Always Know” is hardly new!

    😉