Cartoons that are hip enough for both adults and children are nothing new. In the ’50s, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd parodied Wagnerian opera. In the ’60s, Beany and Cecil made trips to No Bikini Atoll. In the ’90s, Nickelodeon’s The Ren & Stimpy Show has raised this tradition to a new level, where obscure pop-culture references and a wiseacre attitude are ladled into a children’s medium.
Now the children’s-music industry is getting the same treatment. Witness You Eediot!, the first Ren & Stimpy spin-off album (the ’90s being the Merchandising Age), which launches the new Nickelodeon/Sony Wonder label. The album’s 21 tracks consist of songs and dialogue taken from, or inspired by, the TV cartoon series, featuring the show’s ditzy characters and oft-repeated in-jokes. Although kids love Ren and Stimpy (an asthmatic Chihuahua and a dim-witted cat) for their innate silliness, most of the pair’s humor is aimed at adults, as is the music on You Eediot! The reverb-drenched guitars on ”Dog Pound Hop” and ”Big House Blues” echo gonzo surf-music instrumentalists such as Dick Dale or the Trashmen (of ”Surfin’ Bird” fame) filtered through Veg-O-Matic. And there’s no mistaking Frank Zappa’s lyrical inspiration on ”Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence.”
Oh, sorry, do subjects like that make you squeamish? How about ”Ren’s Pecs,” a wonderfully absurd ballad sung by Stimpy after (follow this, now) Ren runs off to Hollywood to seek film stardom once he’s had his pecs enlarged, using Stimpy’s derriere as implants. Stimpy’s tender plea ”No matter where you go/No matter what you do/Remember there’s a little bit of/Stimpy’s butt in you.” In short, protective parents of the very young should check the lyric sheet first. Preteens, however, will instantly work choice phrases into conversation.
Okay, you ask, if this stuff is so disgusting, why recommend it for any kids? Well, gross-out humor has been around since Mr. Green Jeans was in shorts. I suppose you never sang ”Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts,” huh? Lighten up — at least it’s not harmfully violent, except maybe to a kid who already has Daliesque hallucinations.
All in all, You Eediot! is a necessary addition to any complete Ren & Stimpy catalog. It’s gross, but commendably juvenile; hip and, yes, often unfathomable. And best of all, it’s intelligent, yet it revels in its own immaturity.
One last warning: In some homes, arguments may arise over possession of You Eediot! Mom and Dad may borrow this album fairly often. If nothing else, it will provide enough silly sound bites to fill the answering machine for a year — or until You Eediot II! B