Crash Test Dummies, one of Canada’s most accomplished acts of the 1990s, is coming to the deCoste Performing Arts Centre.
And because the Winnipeg-based pop/folk/alternative rock band (pick your label) plays smaller venues these days, it affords them an opportunity to connect with fans before and after shows.
“That’s something we couldn’t do in 1994, because things were a little out of control,” says Ellen Reid, a multi-instrumentalist and who also takes the lead singing role occasionally with Crash Test Dummies, such as with the band’s cover of The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.
“We’re traveling in a van now instead of a bus, and that’s OK – we’re doing things on our terms now. At this stage on our lives, we wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t fun.”
The Winnipeg-based folk/pop band will appear Nov. 21 at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre (show time is 7:30 p.m.).
“We see younger people at our shows, which was not what we were expecting – we were expecting the vintage fans,” Reid says in a telephone interview from southern Ontario.
“Our vintage fans are bringing their adult children and they’ll say, ‘Mom and Dad raised me on you’. It’s a new generation of fans, which is awesome.”
The band received international acclaim with their sophomore record, God Shuffled His Feet (1993) and toured the world multiple times. The quirky song, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, was their biggest international hit, reaching No. 4 in the U.S., No. 2 in the United Kingdom and topping the charts in Australia.
The group’s debut record in 1991, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, sold 400,000 records, largely on the strength of the hit single, Superman's Song, which helped earn the band the 1992 Juno award for Group of the Year.
THREE SONGS WITH CRASH TEST DUMMIES
With a baritone voice deeper than an old Pictou County coal mine, vocalist, songwriter and lead singer Brad Roberts first came to prominence when Superman Song zoomed up the Canadian charts in the early 1990s. In this country, it might be their signature tune.
“That’s the first song Brad ever wrote,” says Reid. “He wrote it after he saw Lyle Lovett at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He wanted to write about an anti-hero, about the underside of a hero.”
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Roberts sent a rough copy of this song to the other members of the band when it was still in its infancy stage. He couldn’t come up with lyrics for the chorus, so Roberts just hummed over it on the demo. The band liked it so much, they didn’t want him to change it and despite backlash from critics, it would become their biggest international hit.
“It’s a song about outsiders – little kids especially – because for kids, it’s confusing when you’re are an outsider (and) you don’t understand why.”
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
Originally recorded by British 80s pop band XTC, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead is a bouncy, up-tempo track whose arrangement and energy belies its darker lyrical content.
“Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold's for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees”
It was originally recorded it merely to give Reid an extra song for live performances, but the makers of the 1994 movie Dumb & Dumber approached Crash Test Dummies about using the song on the film’s soundtrack.
“It’s about a person when they try to do good in the world, but people turn against them,” Reid says. “Someone who is trying to do good, but is persecuted.”