Hey, grownups: Crank up these cartoon tunes

When you're the father of two wee daughters — ages 5 and 21 months to be exact — the process of accepting their incessant "car music" comes in three stages:

(1) I bet the Jonas Brothers can't throw a football.

(2) If Miley Cyrus were my daughter, that would make me Billy Ray Cyrus, which would make me cry a great deal.

(3) Okay, fine, maybe Dora the Explorer shouldn't be tied to the outside of the space shuttle.

You eventually get used to the songs, singing along with your brood solely as a matter of self-preservation. But there's rarely genuine enjoyment involved.

That's what makes the music of Phineas and Ferb, the Disney Channel's No. 1 animated series for kids 6 to 14, such a revelation. The story of two inventive brothers, an exasperated older sis and a pet platypus named Perry (who's also a secret agent), Phineas and Ferb blends sly humor, slapstick and, most importantly, some of the best 'toon tunage in TV history.

Show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, plus music producer Danny Jacob and Disney stars Ashley Tisdale and Mitchel Musso, have nodded to krautrock, Jamaican dancehall, surf and gutbucket blues in penning an original song for each new episode. The best number so far, Gitchee Gitchee Goo, is pure power-pop bliss. I say put it on adult radio right now.

Phineas and Ferb's soundtrack was just released, and there's nary a bad cut among the 26 tracks. (Seek out Squirrels in My Pants, Little Brothers and Queen of Mars.) In fact, it reminds me of eight other televised 'toons that mastered melody far beyond a catchy theme song. Feel free to sing along:

SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-?) Surrealism has never been so catchy. "The best time to wear a striped sweater is all the tiiime." When Spongie comes on my iPod, I rarely skip ahead.

The Simpsons (1989-?) Wow, where to start with the brilliant Springfield spoofery? Let's start with Flaming Moe's, Lisa It's Your Birthday and The Monorail Song. Oh, and Rock Me, Dr. Zaius.

Merrie Melodies (1931-1969) Nothing makes me laugh harder than Bugs Bunny calling a sinister square dance for those warring hillbillies. "Grab a fencepost, hold it tight /Womp your partner with all your might!"

South Park (1997-?) The infamous combo platter of R. Kelly, Tom Cruise and Trapped in the Closet helped Matt Stone and Trey Parker earn an Emmy nom.

The Flintstones (1960-1966) Remember the Bedrock Twitch? "When you get an itch, you do the Twitch, in Bedrock!"

The Jackson 5ive (1971-1973) Okay, this is a bit of cheat, as the songs were already album cuts — and the animation was lame. But the cartoon madcappery was instantly made cooler when soundtracked by MJ & Co.

Schoolhouse Rock! (1973-1985, 1993-1999) Three Is a Magic Number, Conjunction Junction, Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here — all written by the saintly Bob Dorough for ABC's great edu-snippets. You'd be surprised (or not) at how often I still rely on those songs.

Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005-?) Seth MacFarlane creeps me out. But songs a la Everything Is Better With a Bag of Weed are a twisted brand of genius.

The Cracker Barrel Playlist

I'm fascinated by Cracker Barrel, the exit-ramp staple celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It's not just the restaurant's artery-thwarting Old Timer's Breakfast or that confounding "peg" game. I'm obsessed with the Barrel's "country" store, stuffed as it is with old-timey treats (mmm, horehound candy, sounds delicious), antiquated road games (Wooly Willy and his beard of magnet shavings) and racks of God-fearing music: Dolly Parton, Alabama, etc. You could scoff at the Barrel's rocking chairs, jingoistic tchotchkes and 37 biscuits with every meal. But as we slog through a recession, the Barrel, according to Forbes, is thriving, mainly by choosing yesterday over today. The chain just signed a deal with Alan Jackson. Along with his music — featured on the Barrel's own music label — you can buy his hats, skillets and candles that presumably smell like Alan Jackson. A Barrel-produced Montgomery Gentry disc went top five on Billboard! So let's dedicate a few songs to the Barrel . . . as it takes over the world.

1 From the Fryin' Pan,

Ricky Van Shelton

2 Route 66,

Chuck Berry

3 Keep on the Sunny Side, June Carter Cash

4 Old Man,

Randy Newman

5 Rubber Biscuit,

the Blues Brothers

6 Eggs and Sausage,

Tom Waits

7 Keep It Greasy,

Frank Zappa

8Heart Attack,

Olivia Newton-John

9 Back in Time, Huey Lewis and the News

10 Breakfast in America, Supertramp

ALBUM REVIEW

Lea Michele,

Kristen Chenoweth

Album: Glee: Vol. I

(Columbia)

In stores: Now

Chorus lines: I'm not allowed to criticize Glee in my house. If I utter one churlish thing about Fox's geek-chorus dramedy — for instance, its delicate balance of surreality and reality will be impossible to maintain (plus that phantom pregnancy plot line is lame) — I'm immediately banished somewhere dark, cold and without cable. But hey, this is my column, so just try and stop me. This new soundtrack compiles 17 of the show's reimagined pop hits. (A second volume will be released in December.) Without the visuals, the music isn't nearly as fun. And although Lea Michele (who plays overachiever Rachel) can sing for sure, Cory Monteith (Finn) is even more digitally pitch-tuned than you thought. (Can't Fight This Feeling — yikes.) Too many songs (No Air, for instance) are presented without any Glee-ifying; that's called karaoke, folks. But when he's inspired, producer-arranger Adam Anders, who cut his teeth on the High School Musical franchise, blends amateur-hour enthusiasm and drama-club exuberance to delirious effect. The sunbursting vocals on Journey's Don't Stop Believin' have helped that cover version sell more than 500,000 copies. A downright religious reworking of Queen's Somebody to Love is even better. And bad-boy Puck's Sweet Caroline and teacher Will's Gold Digger have sweet, nerdly appeal.

Reminds us of: After a two-week layoff, Glee is back on Wednesday. I hope my family lets me watch. I'll be good . . . for the most part.

Download these: Don't Stop Believin', Somebody to Love, Sweet Caroline

Grade: B-

Hey, grownups: Crank up these cartoon tunes 11/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 7, 2009 3:31am]

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