Music Review: Crash Test Dummies

A Worm's Life

I was first introduced to the unique voice of Brad Roberts by Joe Jackson's Heaven & Hell. While I really liked the song, and I was interested in hearing more of his work, I hadn't been greatly impressed by the Crash Test Dummies' album I'd heard in the local music store. But I was still interested enough to keep Crash Test Dummies on my back-of-the-mind list.

I'm glad I did. A Worm's Life turned up in the cheap CD bin, and I snapped it up like a starving chick. It took a spin or two to settle in, but I've been playing it pretty continuously for the last week.

My first observation was similarity between Crash Test Dummies and 10,000 Maniacs before Natalie Merchant left. Both groups take their personality from the lead singer, who's also the lyricist. Also, the music is rather middle of the road; it isn't interesting without the vocals. Finally, both Natalie Merchant and Brad Roberts write intelligent, biting lyrics that don't always rely on conventional rhyme schemes.

But there's something a little different about Crash Test Dummies that I haven't been able to put my finger on. Perhaps it's the dark subject of many of the songs ("My Enemies", "I'm a Dog"); perhaps it's that the songs aren't polemic (unlike most 10,000 Maniacs' songs); or just maybe it's the fact that Mr. Roberts sounds like he's really enjoying unearthing these common buried feelings.

Whatever the reason, I'm hooked, and will be looking for more to devour, like a fish gulping a lure.

I try to meditate, control my hate just like I know I should
But I can't help myself, and I keep it up because it feels so good
But when I look down at my belly
I can see it's pink and soft and weak

Kneeling down, kneeling on my two legs
Two skinny legs, I'm kneeling down and...

-- "My Enemies"

Last updated 8 June 2000
All contents ©1999-2002 Mark L. Irons