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Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Nite Retro - Crash Test Dummies

In the mid-1980s, Curtis Riddell joined with Brad Roberts to form the decidedly less-than-serious bar band Bad Brad Roberts and the St. James Rhythm Pigs. Over time, the band evolved into the Crash Test Dummies, a name suggested by a friend of the band in medical school. Ellen Reid and Benjamin Darvill became permanent additions. George West, the original bass player, quit and was replaced by Dan Roberts, Brad's brother. Riddell was replaced by Vince Lambert, who later left, replaced by Mitch Dorge around the time of the release of The Ghosts that Haunt Me.

The Crash Test Dummies first began to achieve commercial success in Canada with the release of The Ghosts that Haunt Me in 1991. The album eventually reached sales of 400,000 in Canada, largely due to the overwhelming popularity of the smash hit single "Superman's Song," which earned the Dummies the 1991 Juno Award for Group of the Year.

Superman's Song


However, the Dummies didn't acheive much international recognition until the 1993 release of their second album, God Shuffled His Feet. Particularly instrumental in increasing CTD's exposure in the U.S. market was the appearance of a new type of radio format: adult album-oriented alternative rock (AAA). These stations put the first single "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" in high rotation, and the song peaked at #4 in the US Hot 100.

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Ironically, in their native Canada, the Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was a comparative disappointment on the charts, only peaking at #14. However, two other songs from the album went top 10 in Canada: "Swimming In Your Ocean" and "Afternoons & Coffeespoons". This latter track was also a top 40 hit in Australia and the UK, and hit the lower portion of the US Hot 100. The result was that by mid-1994, the album had passed the platinum sales mark in the U.S. (one million), and had also earned the Dummies three Grammy nominations and three more Juno nominations. To date, God Shuffled His Feet has sold more than five and a half million copies worldwide.

Swimming In Your Ocean

Afternoons & Coffeespoons

The First Noel

In January of 1995, the band released a cover of XTC's "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" as a single and on the soundtrack of the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels comedy Dumb and Dumber. The single, credited to The Crash Test Dummies and Ellen Reid, charted at No. 30 in the UK singles chart and was a #4 hit in Canada.

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

In 1996, the Dummies' third album, A Worm's Life, was released to mixed critical and moderate commercial success. The guitar-heavy singles were warmly received in some markets (lead single "He Liked To Feel It" hit #2 in Canada), but internationally nothing matched the runaway success of either "Superman's Song" or "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". Still, the album went platinum in Canada in less than one month.

He Liked to Feel It (uncensored version)

Give Yourself A Hand, the Dummies' fourth album, was released March 23, 1999. The album showcased a new sound for the Dummies, as it featured Ellen Reid singing lead vocals on three tracks, and Brad Roberts singing in a falsetto on several others. The whole sound of the album was much more electronic than the previous recordings. Once again, the lead single ("Keep A Lid On Things") was a top 10 hit in Canada.

Keep a Lid on Things (album version)

The Crash Test Dummies parted ways with their record label, BMG, after the end of the GYAH tour. Free from major-label restrictions, the Dummies surprised their fans in 2001 by putting their solo projects on hold for a fifth studio album and tour. After suffering a near-fatal car accident in the fall of 2000, Brad found himself recuperating in the town of Argyle, Nova Scotia. It was there that he met some local "lobster fishermen" who happened to be quite musically inclined - Kent Greene, Dave Morton, and Danny MacKenzie. Together, they recorded the bulk of I Don't Care That You Don't Mind, which was to be Brad's first solo album. Later on, Ellen was brought in to record backing vocals for a few tunes, and Dan agreed to tour with Brad. When Ellen and Mitch agreed to tour as well, the Crash Test Dummies name was put on the record. This album saw the Dummies returning to their acoustic roots. Brad compared this album to the Dummies' first, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, though he calls it more atmospheric and polished.

I Don't Care that You Don't Mind

On November 11, 2008, Roberts announced in his featured blog on the band's website that he and Ellen Reid are presently recording a new album tentatively titled "Toys", adding that the other three members of the band are busy with their families and are unable to commute to New York City to contribute (it is not yet known whether the album will include the Crash Test Dummies moniker or be released as a Brad Roberts solo project).

The following day, Roberts specified in a subsequent journal entry that he has "about 20 songs now, and must pick the best ten." He added Ellen Reid will feature as lead vocalist on one track, which he elaborated on November 18th as "achingly beautiful". On November 23rd, Roberts added that some "very accomplished, high-priced players and arrangers have volunteered to play on it for free, just because they think it is extremely unique" and the record is "falling into place like a finished crossword puzzle."

On December 1, 2008, Roberts confirmed he originally planned to release the album in a digital-only format, but added that, although getting the record to stores is out of the question, he would "consider running some cd's with artwork if there is any fan interest." and mailing them by request to fans.

It remains unknown what direction the album will take musically.

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