CD Review: The Boy Least Likely To, “The Law of the Playground”

The Law of the Playground

It’s been said that The Boy Least Likely To sounds like what would happen “if all your childhood stuffed animals got together and started a band.”  A slightly terrifying thought, but there really aren’t too many other descriptions that so neatly classifies the sweetly innocent tunes that the band produces.

While at first the name seems like a perfect moniker for some sort of whiney pre-teen emo abomination, The Boy Least Likely To is actually an English indie pop duo. Pete Hobbs (composer/multi-instrumentalist) and Jof Owen (lyricist/singer) have been creating music together since 2002. In 2006 their first release, The Best Party Ever, was released to a great deal of critical admiration in the US. after doing the same in the U.K. the previous year. The bouncy, summery feel of the music is complimented by lyrics steeped in child-like imagery. Barely a song goes by without a mention of toys, zoo animals, candy, or school supplies.

Creating music like this without coming off cheesy is no small feat, but The Boy Least Likely To pull it off by adding subtle undertones of melancholy to the lyrics; bringing occasional shades of seriousness to otherwise vastly positive tunes. In “My Tiger My Heart,” for example, what starts off as a seemingly sweet account of friendship quickly takes a sorrowful turn: “As the whole of the sky/Clouds quietly over/And it starts to cry/Softly on my shoulder/We don’t want to grow up/But we have to grow up/As sad as I am/I do understand.”

The band’s most recent release, The Law of The Playground, offers more of the same blend of accessible, cute, cheery pop attitude with the troubled, confused hearts of youth.

Owen sings “And if I want to feel something I stick pencils up my nose” in “Stringing Up Conckers,” bringing to mind devastatingly depressing songs such as Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” or The Manic Street Preachers’ “Die In The Summertime.” On the other hand, the line leaves itself open to be interpreted in a more innocent, goofy sense. After all, what kid hasn’t shoved something up a nostril to get a laugh?

The Boy Least Likey To

The Boy Least Likey To

“Every Goliath Must Have Its David” is one of the more instantly addictive new songs on Playground. Set to instrumentation that calls for everything from toe tapping to deliriously joyful dancing, the backdrop for an epic battle is laid down:

I’ve got a little bag of marbles and a catapult
Wound around my fingers, and I feel very small
But I could make myself big, if I wanted to
There is nothing courageous about anything I do
I’m trying to balance on an upturned milk crate
As I fumble with my catapult
And my hands are trembling as I try to aim
But every Goliath has its David
And I know kung fu
And I’m not afraid of you
Cos I might be small
But I’m not a coward
I’ve got puppy powers
That I’m not afraid to use

Like so many of The Boy Least Likely To’s songs, silly fantastical phrases (“puppy powers” anyone?) and cartoon-inspired instrumentation are sprinkled over poetry that aims to make a larger philosophical statement.

In the same way that adults love going to Pixar movies as much as kids, The Boy Least Likely To creates art that works on multiple levels of appreciation. If you simply just love a good pop song, you’ll dig these guys. If you’re drawn to stories about alienation, rebellion and confusion, you’ll love ‘em too.

-Shelley Peckham

Check out The Boy Least Likely To on their official page, and MySpace.

“Every Goliath Has Its David”

“Be Gentle With Me” (from The Best Party Ever, featuring a cameo from The Office’s Rashida Jones)

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