Is there an Australian group more beloved yet still underrated than The Wiggles?
Generations have grown up on the entertainers’ songs, but the band arguably still deserve more credit for their musicianship. Both Anthony Field and Jeff Fatt were in ’80s pub-rockers The Cockroaches, while Murray Cook continues to play and tour to this day, most recently as part of The Soul Movers. They’ve also become prime purveyors of children’s music, which at its best never talks down to its younger audience while remaining simple, catchy and therefore accessible.
The first disc of ‘ReWiggled’, dedicated to Australian artists covering The Wiggles’ songs, speaks to both their influence and compositional chops. Not only are there younger artists here that would have inevitably grown up on the group (San Cisco, The Chats), but also musicians that are now parents themselves and sharing The Wiggles’ music with their kids (Luca Brasi, Emily Wurramara).
It’s a fun listen, kicking off with Cook’s good friends DZ Deathrays tearing into ‘Hot Potato’ with mosh-ready abandon before turning to Spacey Jane’s cheery indie-pop ode to everyone’s favourite rose-eating dinosaur, ‘D.O.R.O.T.H.Y.’ Elsewhere, AMP-shortlisted soul singer Emma Donovan sounds right at home on ‘Say the Dance, Do the Dance’, while Polish Club shake their sillies out on the wonderfully nonsensical ‘Apples and Bananas’. Throw in the dreamy French-pop whimsy of Stella Donnelly’s ‘Ba Ba Da Bicycle Ride’, and ‘ReWiggled’ is off to a seriously promising start.
The only cover that falls short is former Eurovision contestant Dami Im, who completely misunderstands the assignment. Her piano version of ‘Big Red Car’, one of the group’s signature songs, seems to lose most of the original lyrics and its all-important chorus.
Things get a little dicier on the second disc. After the stunning success of their triple j Like a Version cover of Tame Impala’s ‘Elephant’ – which ended up topping the Hottest 100 of 2021 – the group were compelled to head back to the well and try their hand at a few more covers. Some of them are perfectly charming: A cover of The Chats’ ‘Pub Feed’, in exchange for their punky take on ‘Can You (Point Your Fingers And Do The Twist?)’, is guaranteed to raise a smile, as is new-era Wiggles Simon Price (Red) and Emma Watkins (formerly Yellow) duetting on The White Stripes’ ‘We’re Going to Be Friends’.
Other choices, however, ring as absolutely bizarre, such as an unremarkable rendition of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ and James Brown’s ‘Get On The Good Foot’, which new Yellow Wiggle Tsehay Hawkins is awkwardly placed on.
There are also some wincing reminders that the Wiggles are ultimately still making music for minors: Price hums his way through the part in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ where the protagonist confesses murder, while mainstay Wiggle Anthony Field says he wants to eat something “healthy”, not “greasy”, in ‘Pub Feed’.
On the flipside, the lyrics to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ – including the lines “We met some girls/Some dancers who gave a good time” and “I was shaking at the knees/Could I come again, please?” – have inexplicably been kept completely intact. There’s a novelty to hearing childhood musical heroes faithfully delivering rock ’n’ roll innuendo, but the Wiggles’ logic here feels inconsistent.
Even with these shortcomings, there’s more than enough substance across the ‘ReWiggled’ project to deem it worthy of exploration. As they have done for decades, the Wiggles are here to entertain.
- Release date: March 11
- Record label: ABC Music