Volume 92, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 10, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Continuing to Test their limits
Photo by Chris Buck
By Mark Lewandowski
The Crash Test Dummies have fired up their musical engine and are hurtling toward the unknown without the comfort of airbags.
With the release of Give Yourself a Hand on March 23, the Dummies are hoping to once again put the fans in the clubhouse. With a motley of hits and styles along for the ride, the fivesome's fourth album is like its predecessors, the product of a healthy musical philosophy. Back-up vocalist and piano player Ellen Reid takes time out between rehearsals to spread the band's doctrines.
"It's impossible to tell what people are going to like. You can do the same thing that worked before but not be successful for a variety of reasons the market changes, people want something different it could be anything," Reid explains. With an influx of new styles and ideas, the Dummies are far from hitting the musical wall.
The band has avoided stagnation while remaining one of the better selling Canadian acts for a very good reason. "You can never plug into a formula. You just have to do what makes you happy," Reid describes. This joy driven attitude has propelled the Dummies back onto the charts with their new single "Keep a Lid on Things."
The song has been lauded for its creative video which shows a little person controlling a regular human from an internalized panel, but also for the unusual presentation of Brad Roberts' deep voice. "Brad uses falsetto now. After three or four records, bass baritone is enough. Give Yourself a Hand is a coherent piece so there is even me singing falsetto," Reid explains.
"Keep a Lid on Things" contains sentiments of philosophical introspection or an unfaithful relationship, but Reid admits it is much simpler than that. "It's not about anything. Brad took a new approach to songwriting. He used to bang his head against a wall to come up with lyrics but this time he sat at his computer and just wrote down stuff that rhymed. For 20 pages of writing he would use two or so. It's free-association.
"A neighbour asked him to keep an eye on things while she was gone and that stayed in the back of his head it came out while he was piecing everything together," Reid divulges. Since their first album in 1991, the Dummies have pieced together a career which has sent them into the heart of the mainstream, on MTV's censored list and into Hollywood.
Their journey into the film world culminated in "Peter Pumpkinhead" which appeared on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack, but Reid sights other factors for the group's popularity. "With God Shuffled His Feet we got poppy or else we would still be at the darkest depths of where we were," Reid states awkwardly, with a little laugh. "But we didn't expect it because what we do is based on what we want to do, not what's going to be popular." The two have always been kissing cousins for the band as sales of their last album A Worm's Life surpassed one million.
The video for "He Liked to Feel It" off Worm's Life involved a kid graphically getting his teeth pulled. Consequently it was censored by some stations. Reid doesn't understand what all the hype was about. "What's wrong with that you bunch of babies haven't you ever had your teeth pulled."
Apparently they haven't. Her emotions swell at the thought. "You either play a video or you don't, it's that simple."
The new album has been described as more electronic, while Reid sees it otherwise. "It is all within the same vibe. It's Curtis Mayfield meets L.A. flick producer guy. Groove-oriented and earthy without being folksy."
Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999