By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
The song will rip your heart out. It will make you weep. It will ravage you. It's called "Teddy Bear": "Once on a dark day no one loved me," sings Tracy Poole, who also penned the lyrics. "I was all alone in a big place. Oh, so lonely. So serious, so lonely, oh." It's one of the most startling, profound existential examinations ever written, ending with the devastating verse: "Once on a gloomy night, I was standing alone, just me, no Teddy. Oh, so lonely, so miserable. So lonely."
Top that, Leonard Cohen. "Teddy Bear" (not to be confused with the Red Sovine weeper of the same name) is a song on the recent local masterpiece Kids Alive!, which features the words and music of local youth ages 10-14; it's the product of a music camp of the same name that encourages the youth of St. Louis to start early living the musician's lifestyle -- at least the part of the process that doesn't involve record-company and radio weasels and groupies. That kind of stuff they'll have to learn on their own.
Nearly the entirety of Kids Alive is as emotionally raw as "Teddy Bear," and, as a result, it's some of the most alive and inspired music the city has.
Sure, Henry Townsend's perfected the blues, but find us a local songwriter who can address fear and longing as well as Phillip Cleveland does on "All Alone" ("Can you find me, 'cause no one else can find me. What am I to do when I'm without you?"), and we'll give you a gold star. Or express the pure carnal Barry White-esque longing that only an, er, 11-year-old can on a song called "Girl, You Are the Only One": "You are the only one who can fulfill all of my wants/no one else but you, baby."
There are crooners ("Bright and Red," about sunburn) and celebrations ("God Is Calling Me," about, well, returning home), postmodern quirks ("Brain Dead," a song about not being able to write a song) and prepubescent confessions ("Boy, You Got Me Going Crazy"). Take a step back and you can hear the Shaggs, the Danielson Family and Half Japanese in there, but rather than aspire to re-create the feeling of youth, as those three bands did, the artists on Kids Alive! do them one better by actually being youth.
In all, the CD is a blast. You can help fund next year's project by purchasing the CD or by participating in the benefit auction scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Dave & Buster's out in Earth City. Sponsored by Contemporary, the event will be offering music memorabilia from your favorite fancy rock stars; though the list of stuff for sale is less than impressive -- lots of autographed-poster-type stuff from musicians such as Elton John, Cher, Jewel, Brian Setzer, Garbage, Poison, Ratt, the Nuge, Backstreet Boys and the like -- the cause is fantastic.