Mitch Friedman's music has the same youthful exuberance of a five year-old kid. Fred is a bouncy, fun-loving pop album that sounds like a mixture of a Saturday morning pirate cartoon, a child tinkering around on instruments, and someone singing songs to his/her pre-school class. All with an understanding of how pop works. The songs are catchy, delightful, and a bucket of fun.

Clever and aggreable. Friedman is a whacked-out Andy Partridge without the vestigial superego. "Pretty Pretty New York City" both trashes other vacation destinations while painting a fantasy Big Apple where taxis come with toiletries and there are cheese and wine parties in subway cars. It's very amusing.

It sounds, at best, an anemic endorsement of a record to say so, but in Fred's case, it's completely true: It's really annoying! I like it! Mitch Friedman has made a record full of cutesy self-referentialism (witness the very first song, "My Second Record", which apparently "took [him] quite awhile"), toy pianos, bouncing noises and insanely repetitive rhyme schemes, but which is so danged bouncy and lovable that I couldn't help grinning. Apparently, there are more folks out there who find it just as hard to resist Friedman's charms: XTC's Dave Gregory shows up for bass riffs and perhaps the album's only guitar solo, and Andy Partridge himself wrote the music for "I Wish I Was A Kid Again". Now, anyone would be deeply suspicious of a song with that title, and Friedman could be jailed for criminal overuse of the word "again", but, dude, Andy Partridge. Much of the record has that same effect; it's so cheesy and a little embarrassing, but there's that "oh, neat!" factor most of the time, too, and that's nothing to just laugh off.

Described by the artist as being "a little bit less silly and quite a bit more polished" than it's predecessor, The Importance of Sauce, the 2002 release of Fred is the latest CD from Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Mitch Friedman. On his latest outing Friedman is assisted by legendary New Jersey rocker R. Stevie Moore and XTC guitar great Dave Gregory. In the credits Friedman thanks the Kinks mentor Ray Davies who obviously influenced Friedman's muse alot over the years. Like Davies, Friedman excels at writing and singing whimsicle, off-center, catchy, progressive pop ditties that sometimes sound inspired by cabaret pop singer-songwriters like Biff Rose and even some of Bowie's quirkier moments. With several of his musician buddies in tow, Friedman performs much of Fred himself, yet the home-grown, spunky little album never sounds labored or mundane. Topped off by bizarre cover art, Fred is guaranteed to make you crack a smile and get your toes tapping.