Archive for the ‘Brad Roberts’ Category

[POSTPONED: May 2, 2020] Crash Test Dummies / Elizabeth Moen

indexI saw Brad Roberts solo a few years ago and I really enjoyed him.  I have remained a Crash Test Dummies fan since the early days, even with their weirder Brad Roberts-only solo stuff.

This tour was going to be a full band anniversary tour and I was really interested in seeing them all.

However, two things were standing in the way.  The cost: City Winery is SO EXPENSIVE! (especially for a band like CTD) and the date: Conflicting with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who I was not prepared to miss.

So this postponement might actually allow me to see them.

Elizabeth Moen is described as a bluesy folk singer.  That seems fairly accurate for the one song I listened to.

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Crash Test Dummies were once huge, then mocked and then silent.  They are still a band, although the band is really only singer Brad Roberts anymore.

In fat they were more or less broken up but then in 2010 Roberts began experimenting with toy instruments, the Optigan and Omnichord.

Those instruments were the inspiration for this music and yet the songs don’t sound like novelty or “toy” creations.  Both of the instruments were proto-samplers and they allowed Roberts to generates sounds on styles he didn’t normally play.  And so we get this interesting and fun release which features many contributions from fellow Dummy Ellen Ried, who still sounds amazing.

Roberts’ voice is still deep, but he really has his songwriting chops down well.  “Songbird” is a pretty folk song with a lovely chorus.

“You Said You’d Meet Me (In California)” was recorded as a Dummies song, although this version is more fun, with the way he sings it and the way he uses the instruments’ effects.

“And Its Beautiful” really is beautiful–it’s a very catchy song with pretty instrumentation and great backing vocals from Ellen Reid.  “Paralyzed” is a slow piano ballad while “In between Places” has some cool effects sprinkled on the song.

“Not Today Baby” is a goofy song.  Dummies have always been seen as a novelty band, and it’s songs like this that are why. But honestly, what’s wrong with having a sense of humor in your music.  This song isn’t ha ha funny but it should raise a smile.

“Heart of Stone” is the kind of sad song that Brad does so well.  Ellen Reid’s doo doo doo doo” are a lovely touch.

“Lake Bras d’Or” is a pretty ballad with minimal instrumentation, while “What I’m Famous For” is over the top.  This one has a kind of Western feel–a banjo-picking, fast-talking monstrosity.  And yet it’s a fun country ditty with some pretty funny lyrics.

Roberts talked about the big band sound of “Now You See Her” as something of an inspiration for the album–that this toy could make this kind of music and he wanted to see if he could wrote a song in that style   is a kind of big band.  It’s again, kind of a novelty, but I think he pulls it off really well.

The final song “Put a Face” is played with accordion and violin and is sung entirely by Ellen Reid.  It’s a beautiful song and a lovely ending to this unexpected disc.

[READ: January 20, 2017] “Two Men Arrive in a Village”

I usually love Zadie Smith stories–even when she writes things that are quite different from her usual style  But this one is simply odd.

The title is sort of a parable and the story reads like one as well.  It even starts as if the title is the first half of the sentence:

Sometimes on horseback, sometimes by foot, in a car or astride motorbikes, occasionally in a tank—having strayed far from the main phalanx—and every now and then from above, in helicopters. But if we look at the largest possible picture, the longest view, we must admit that it is by foot that they have mostly come…. Two men arrive in a village by foot, and always a village, never a town. If two men arrive in a town they will obviously arrive with more men, and far more in the way of supplies—that’s simple common sense.

After a fairly long setup of the things two men might carry, we find that these two men arrived in the narrator’s village at sunset. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2016] Crash Test Dummies

I thought and still think that God Shuffled His Feet is a great album.  The lyrics to that disc are just fantastic.  And while Brad Roberts’ voice might take some getting used to, it’s really an amazing instrument.

The one thing that has always bugged me though is that Roberts is treated as something of a novelty because of his voice.  When someone like Johnny Cash has a very similar style of singing, yet he has never been thought of as a joke.  Perhaps that’s because Roberts has a sense of humor.

I was pretty excited to see this show, having never seen him/them before.  I wasn’t sure if it was a full band or just him.  It turned out to be Roberts and guitarist Stewart Cameron.  In preparation for this show I listened to his previous live album Crash Test Dude.  On that one he played a bunch of covers and sang a few old songs.

I was really hoping to hear my favorite CTD songs, and would have liked a cover or two.  So I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

Well, Roberts came out and the Stewart sat next to him.  And they launched right into “God Shuffled His Feet,” and I was ecstatic.

And it turned out that the set was almost entirely taken from the Shuffled album.  He played four songs from their last album Ooh La La, and one or two other songs.  And it was an amazing evening.

Roberts’ voice sounds amazing.  And especially so in the great acoustics of Sellersville Theater.  His deep bass is just as powerful as ever (does a bass singer lose the ability to hit low notes as a tenor loses the ability to hit high notes?).  He was resonate and really sounded perfect.

The only cover song they played was the Replacements’ “Androgynous” which doesn’t really count as CTD recorded it on their debut album.

All told, he played nine songs from Shuffled.  Now, the orchestration of the album is amazing, so how did it work with one guitarist?  Well, it turns out that Stewart Cameron is an amazing guitarist.  He plays jazzy licks, beautiful solos and complex structures.  While it wasn’t the same as the album, it worked really well to convey the fairly complex songs.

The only thing I missed the whole night was Ellen Reid’s harmonies.  Cameron did sing a little, but he never tried to do her harmonies, which really do make the songs sound a wee bit better.  But no matter, he sounded amazing enough by himself.

The newer songs are much more simple, and they allowed Cameron to open up a bit and play some fun licks.  The last album, Ooh La la, which he autographed for me after the show is sadly overlooked.  It’s a very simple album but with some of Roberts’ loveliest songs.  Gone are the days of his baroque lyrics, but his gift for melody has returned.

He also played a couple of his darker, funny songs, like “Just Shoot Me, Baby” and “I Don’t Care If You Don’t Mind.”  Which are “mature.”  As is his banter.  He told a bunch of stories (none as vulgar as the stories on his live CD), but they included tales of his botched vasectomy, and about vaporizing.

All in all it was a great night in a great venue with a great voice.  And as I said, he signed things for us afterward and was very nice.


  • God Shuffled His Feet
  • Androgynous
  • Not Today Baby
  • Here I Stand Before Me
  • Just Shoot Me, Baby
  • Swimming in Your Ocean
  • You Said You’d Meet Me (In California)
  • How Does a Duck Know?
  • Afternoons & Coffeespoons
  • In the Days of the Caveman
  • Song Bird
  • When I Go Out With Artists
  • Heart of Stone
  • Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
  • I Don’t Care That You Don’t Mind
  • Two Knights and Maidens
  • Superman’s Song


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