Crash Test Dummies

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Crash Test Dummies frontman Brad Roberts (seated, blue shirt) at home with his family.

Annoying. What other adjective could wholly express the baritone, monotone drone of Crash Test Dummies frontman Brad Roberts?

That voice permeates the song without regard for harmony and selfishly squats on every note. 

That voice wrenches into the instrumentation with reckless abandon until it consumes your ears like ravenous pirahna.

In essence, it’s like listening to Ben Stein on a bad acid trip.

If songs like “Afternoons & Coffeespoons” were all Crash Test Dummies had to offer us, the loyal music consumers, I’m confident God Shuffled His Feet would’ve tanked and vanished beneath the depths of obscurity.

So how did it sell over five million copies since its release?

That second album, you see, contained the gloriously peculiar “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, a song which inexplicably plants itself in your mind and refuses to leave. You plead with it, try to reason with it. Yet all it does is cross its arms and vigorously shake its head at you.

Despite the danger infectious songs present the melody-susceptible public, I’m offering the infamous track here at Hurry Home Dark Cloud.

But heed my warning: listen at your own risk. . .

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“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” from God Shuffled His Feet (1993)

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Deep Blue Something

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Home. With that record, Deep Blue Something forever cast themselves as the guys who sung “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” From the guitar strum that commences the track to the sing-along chorus, what unfolds is a pleasant yet pedestrian pop song.

Akin to Goo Goo Doll’s single “Name”, which was released just a few months before Home, it’s a song that never quite fulfills its inital promise of being something great.

In lieu of greatness, we’re left with something closer to adequate.

What comes as a surprise, then, is to realize a good deal of Deep Blue Something’s work is entirely pleasing. “Josey” is every bit the equal to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, if only a bit lacking in enthusiasm. 

“Enough to Get By”, from 2001 album Byzantium, is subdued in tone yet awfully assuaging. Especially when the trumpet kicks in.

According to the band’s myspace, the band rejoined in late 2007 and have plans to release new music through iTunes.

I, for one, anticipate something approaching excellence yet only reaching adequate.

Sometimes, that’s all I need.

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“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” from Home (1995)

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“Name” from A Boy Named Goo (1995)

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Martin Page

 

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Genesis. An admiration for that particular progressive rock band is perhaps one of the few commonalities Martin Page and I share. Though, now that I consider it, Page harbors a partiality to the pre-Collins Genesis records and I definitely fall into the post-Gabriel realm of fandom. Apparently the distinction between the two is still fiercely debated, with many fans still referring to Collins as the “new guy.”

 

But I digress.

 

Aside from a mutal partiality to Genesis, I have an absolute adoration for In the House of Stone and Light, the first and (so far) last album from Page. Released in 1994, the album gained significant buoyance from the success of its album-titled track and subsequent single “Keeper of the Flame.”

 

The video clip for “In the House of Stone and Light” was played endlessly on VH1 (back when they actually rotated music videos) during the summer of ’94 and could still be seen deep into 1995 (usually adjacent to the outstanding Annie Lennox clip for “No More I Love Yous”). The track also spun heavily on radio and featured on adult contemporary playlists for years afterward.

 

Despite a default categorization as a “one hit wonder”, I find the record an endless source of indulgence I return to at least once a year. This is partly because of the polished, superlative songwriting and partly because of the exceedingly intricate care given to the instrumentation.

 

Prior to recording his debut album, Page had written songs for acts as diverse as Go West, Tom Jones, Earth Wind & Fire, Heart, and Starship. This experience in the music business, combined with Page’s involvement in seminal eighties techno band Q-Feel, allowed him to slate such venerable session musicians as Robbie Robertson (of The Band, on guitar) and Phil Collins (of Genesis, on drums) who lent their considerable talents to the harmony of Page’s magnum opus.

 

Spaced throughout In the House of Stone and Light are the ubiquitous love songs (“Light in Your Heart”, “I Was Made For You”), yet a variety of disparate topics are addressed on the album, including: domestic violence (“In My Room”), World War II internment camps (“The Door”), and a general condemnation of modern wars and societal ills (“Shape the Invisible”).

 

Curiously, the single version of the marriage ballad “Keeper of the Flame” was coupled with the b-side “Broken Stairway” – which could very well have been written about a divorce. Though this may strike some as a contradictory move to some, I found it a perfect accompaniment to the chugging percussion and amiable tone of the a-side.

 

“Broken Stairway” is a heartachingly beautiful piano ballad clocking in at a scant two minutes forty-nine seconds. In that brief period of time, what unfolds is perhaps one of the saddest songs I’ve had the pleasure of discovering.

 

For those who share my affinity for In the House of Stone and Light and lament the sophomore album that never came, there is light on the horizon. According to Page, second album In the Temple of the Muse is slated for “imminent” release sometime in early 2008. A recent track, “Healing Waters”, which Page recorded for the 2007 Abrazos breast cancer benefit album, can be streamed here.

 

While the tone is certainly reminiscent of his debut album and the track overall is warmingly strong, it’s rather evident his vocals lack the robust power they once held. At present, it is unclear if “Healing Waters” will feature on the upcoming record because a track listing is still unavailable.

 

Page has long had a penchant for quoting historical figures in his works (his myspace blog is adorned with them). In homage to this practice, I’ll leave you with the selection he inserted into the liner notes of In the House of Stone and Light:

 

 

“Defenceless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the just

Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

of Eros and of dust

Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,

Show an affirming flame”

          W.H. Auden from “September 1, 1939”

 

 

 

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“In the House of Stone and Light” from In the House of Stone and Light (1994)

 

“Broken Stairway” from In the House of Stone and Light (1994)

 

 

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“Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” from Q-Feel (1983)

 

Published in: on March 3, 2008 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Klaatu

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Would you entrust these guys with a recording contract?

“Sub-Rosa Subway”. Had it not been for this track it’s likely Klaatu would not have achieved the success they attained. Formed in the early seventies, the band strove for years to garner attention until they finally landed a deal with Capitol. Klaatu released their debut album 3:47 EST in 1976 to surprising success.

For whatever reason, there was a distinct lack of information about the band and a rumor began that Klaatu was, in fact, the Beatles. The record label and the band did nothing to dispel this rumor, and as a result many avid music consumers truly believed the gossip.

In particular the track “Sub-Rosa Subway”, which the band themselves admitted was structured as a tribute to the Beatles, fueled the madness.

It didn’t take long for natural sensibilities to quell the Beatles rumors and, as one might expect, the band was subjected to severe backlash from fans who felt misled and essentially duped into buying the record.

Still, Klaatu carried on with four more albums before finally disbanding in 1981.

Perhaps the most favored track in Klaatu’s short career, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”, was later covered successfully by The Carpenters.

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“Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” from 3:47 EST (1976)

“Sub-Rosa Subway” from 3:47 EST (1976)

BONUS MP3

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“Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” from Passage (1977)

Published in: on March 2, 2008 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Where in the world is Remy Shand?

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 Neo soul. That’s the pigeonhole blanket term I’ve heard bandied about in reference to Remy Shand’s only album The Way I Feel. Released in 2002, the record quickly became a favorite among those longing for a bit of soul in an awfully soulless world. The lead single “Take a Message” became a (somewhat) favorite on MTV and a few other tracks fared relatively well on college radio.

Despite the affected falsetto that can be decidedly grating on the ears, I found the album a breath of fresh air when I first discovered it a few months after it hit the streets. Mr. Shand wore his influences proudly on his sleeve and it showed. The record just was what it was: a throwback tribute to classic soul – and in my book that’s a fine accomplishment.

The record was, by all accounts, quite a success. So why haven’t we seen another offering? Was he dropped from his record label? Did he opt to pursue other interests? Was he abducted by aliens? Did he leave the music industry for a promising stint in Greenpeace?

 The world may never know. . . 

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 4:04 am  Comments (1)  
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