Children's innocence is magical not because of what they don't know-- sex, violence, mortality, Ashton Kutcher-- but how they perceive what they do know. In a child's mind, grown-ups are distinguished by their calves, raindrops on car windows can become aliens racing through space, and long backseat rides furnished with action figures set the stage for Lord of the Rings-scale epics.
The Best Party Ever, which compiles the first three singles plus five new tracks from UK-based The Boy Least Likely To, shares that youthful, existential whimsy. This isn't children's music, but it takes a child-like eye to Postcard bedsit pop awash in1960s California sunshine with hints of country and soul. Recorders, twinkling synths, handclaps, banjos, and glockenspiel accompany the requisitely shambling acoustic guitar on songs about tigers, monsters, growing up, and "Warm Panda Cola." The Best Party Ever is a thing of wonder, made out of rubber and springs-- heartache with a sense of humor.
Yet above all, The Best Party Ever is as fun as pelting Susie Derkins with water balloons. "I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star" lives up to its lengthy title with the best-ever musical mention of antihistamines and the tale of an ill-fated Nashville excursion over "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" oompahs. "We never did get famous, but it made us kinda happy and it kept me off of drugs!" Jof explains. "My Tiger My Heart" recalls a Psapp album title for a ballad that's a bit like "Puff the Magic Dragon" meets Calvin & Hobbes or Winnie the Pooh, as Jof relates the difficulty of being "friends with something that eats butterflies and pencil sharpenings."
The album's best song, the dreamy "Paper Cuts," channels Brian Wilson via Summerteeth-era Wilco through the lens of Aztec Camera. It's a broken-hearted ballad about helplessness against an ever-changing world, but it also points to the essential precariousness of what makes The Boy Least Likely To so appealing.
-Marc Hogan, April 26, 2005