The Joup Friday Album: Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits

saturdaymorningSomething I don’t really see much of anymore are compilation tribute albums, those sonic testaments of inspiration and capital assembled together from a who’s who of whatever the kids are listening to and assorted old stalwarts to craft a quick and profitable loving homage to one of our respected audio forebears.  I don’t mean to sound snarky.  I’m not too good for these cash ins, as my old CD collection is proof to, but it seems like they used to be all over the place, lauding such artists as Depeche Mode, or Joy Division, or Led Zeppelin, or The Carpenters, but have now faded into relative obscurity with so much other 90’s detritus.

And that’s kind of a shame.  Admittedly none of these tribute albums were necessarily any good.  With only a smattering of unique interpretations or loving homages to some artist’s back catalog, the bulk of these albums were made up of an endless supply of filler tunes.  For every “Superstar” by Sonic Youth or “Atmosphere” by Codeine (both rare cases of being both unique interpretations AND loving homages), we’d get a dozen Dishwallas waiting in the wings.  But quality, or originality aside, they were still a lot of fun.

One of these records that never really got the attention it deserved was the wonderfully hokey and silly, yet surprisingly earnest, tribute to youthful exuberance and sugar-fueled weekends, 1995’s Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits.

Consisting of 19 covers of cartoon TV theme songs as performed by an array or alt-rock recording artists, the album manages to be a blast from start to finish.  The alternative zeitgeist is represented in full, featuring everyone from Liz Phair to Violent Femmes and Juliana Hatfield to motherfucking Helmet, as well as a whole slew of others.  Contributions from cult acts like Butthole Surfers and The Reverend Horton Heat ride right alongside MTV buzz bin bands (remember Dig?) and more mainstream fair like Semisonic and The Toadies.  Even The Ramones show up.  And given the nature of the project’s content, even the more milquetoast and wallflower contributors like Collective Soul or Sponge are still goofy, amiable fun.  Hell, even the Sublime song is great, and I hate Sublime.

Liz Phair and Material Issue get the cereal and milk party started with their sugary take on “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” from The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, a gleeful singalong to set the tone for the following 60 minutes.  Later, we get Mathew Sweet turning “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” into the most Mathew Sweet sounding song ever, the Butthole Surfers churning out a frenetic and perfect rendition of the “Underdog” theme, and Helmet’s propulsive version of “Gigantor.”  The record’s centerpiece, and arguably its best track, comes from Psychobilly band The Reverend Horton Heat and their amazing toe-tapping medley of the “Johnny Quest” theme and “Stop That Pigeon,” taken from Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.  It’s ridiculous and way more awesome than it has any right to be.  The album’s second half gives us Violent Femmes covering “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” from The Jetsons as God intended, Tripping Daisy’s “Friends/Sigmund and the Seamonsters” medley from the live action, giant puppet show Sigmund and the Seamonsters which just sounds like a wonderful Tripping Daisy tune, and the aforementioned and detested Sublime covering “Hong Kong Phooey,” a silly little piece of punk and ska pop fun, and the only good thing that band ever did.  We then close out with alt-rock punk band Wax covering “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” from The Ren and Stimpy Show, the only non-70’s/80’s song to appear on the record.

Actually, of all the shows featured on the compilation, Ren and Stimpy is the only one that I watched in its original broadcast run on Nickelodeon.  I saw plenty of the other series growing up via syndication and reruns on various networks, but I didn’t really have any kind of cultural reference point for a good bulk of the record.  As it turns out, that didn’t matter.  At the time, all of that 70’s pop culture was being reevaluated and reexamined and remixed into the current ether, popping up in art, and music, and television, and all of those Quentin Tarantino references I didn’t get the first time around.  It was a reflection of what people five, ten, or twenty years older than me grew up with, remembered, or were inspired by.  Being on the ass end of Generation X myself, I guess I missed out on a lot of 1970’s flotsam and jetsam, but delivered to my ears and brain via the 1990’s alternative nation, it meshed in there quite well with all of the other pop culture I consumed, even if it wasn’t quite the nostalgia bomb it could have been.

Saturday Morning Cartoons worked for me then, and it still works for me now 20+ years later, a time capsule of sorts of a youth I have no way of remembering as translated by the artists I adored during my formative years.  It’s a collection of fun and silly songs by a bunch of great bands and a few duds giving it their all, and sincerely at that.  In fact, there is a very un-90’s lack of irony to the overall vibe of the record which only makes it that much sweeter two decades later.

And my 3-year old loves it.  Pass the Lucky Charms.

While searching Youtube for the album, I came across this promotional video for the album, featuring Drew Barrymore.  It’s…a trip.

 

Tag Melissa!

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
  1. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    Fucking awesome post sir!

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