I DON'T CARE THAT YOU DON'T MIND
Crash Test Dummies
When is a Crash Test Dummies album not a Crash Test Dummies album?
It's a question we suspect plenty of fans will be asking once they get ahold of I Don't Care That You Don't Mind. Especially when they see the liner notes and realize Brad Roberts is the only member of the Dummies who plays on it. There's no Ben Darvill. No Mitch Dorge. Hell, even Brad's bro Dan is MIA. They've all been replaced by a cadre of East Coast players and session cats. Only Ellen Reid crops up here and there -- and only as a background singer. Reportedly, the band (minus new dad and struggling solo artist Darvill) will continue to tour together. But even so, this kinda makes you wonder what's up. Is Brad just using the band name for convenience, or is he finally making official what most folks have always suspected: That when it comes down to it, he is Crash Test Dummies?
Either way, there's no getting around the fact that I Don't Care (due in stores April 3) is not your usual Dummies album. At least not when compared to the quirky intellectualism and electronic hip-pop of 1999's Give Yourself a Hand and 1996's A Worm's Life. I Don't Care -- as the name implies -- is a loosey-goosey, sometimes rebellious affair, with Roberts exchanging his downtown cynicism for downhome simplicity. He's unplugged the synthesizers and drum machines, he's shelved the literary, overly mannered lyrics, he's sent home the fancy-pants producer. From stem to stern, this is an intimate, joyously DIY affair, with Roberts leading a ragtag band of lobster fisherman (no, we're not kidding) through a winning slate of heart-squeezing, earnest ballads and twisted, rootsy ditties. Maybe it's because he's no longer constrained by a major-label deal and its inherent pressure to produce singles. Or maybe it's because these cuts were completed in the aftermath of his near-fatal car wreck last fall. Whatever the reason, I Don't Care is a back-to-basics album and a much-welcome return to form that will remind the faithful of the days when Roberts ruled the Blue Note, serenading late-night drinkers with his keen eye for observation and keen ear for beautiful melody.
Both are found in ample quantity here. For a guy who spent years delivering his lyrics with an arched eyebrow and an ironic smirk, Roberts plays it surprisingly straight much of the time. And pulls it off surprisingly well. In fact, I Don't Care has some of his strongest, least contrived material in years. The Day We Never Met is a lazily strummed, lightly jazzy blues; Let it Feel Like Something Else has the dreamy, shimmering ebb and flow of classic Cowboy Junkies; the conspiratorial Little Secret is a song Tom Waits would have been happy to write, if only for the lyrics, "I like nights when there's no moon / I like suckin' on snakebite wounds." Now and then, Roberts even seems to allude to his brush with death: "Come with me down this ol' road / Where I got stuck and later towed," he invites on the sweet On and On. "Listen to the sound of the falling rain / We just might end up stuck again." On Yer Devil Ways, he warns, "Don't let your car go off the road / Remember that you're hauling a heavy load."
But if you think Roberts has been scared straight by his mishap, think again. The other half of I Don't Care is hilariously raucous, with basso profundo Brad exploring a greasy musical backwoods of pickup trucks, buzzing flies, guns and drugs. The title cut is a loping country ode to guilt-free imbibing; Sittin' on a Tree Stump is a swampy bowl of redneck gumbo midway between Dr. John and Dr. Hook, with lyrics like, "Look at the TV, it's all crappy / Look at the bald spot on yer pappy;" Every Morning is a tale of misanthropic love set to sweet Memphis soul; Put Me In a Corner of Your Mind combines twangy guitars with toreador horns and Ennio Morricone overtones; and if Johnny Cash doesn't cover the insomniac ballad I Never Fall Asleep at Night, it's his loss.
Doesn't sound much like the work of the guy who wrote Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, does it? Well, ultimately, what's the diff? Whether or not I Don't Care That You Don't Mind is the new Crash Test Dummies disc or Brad Roberts' first solo album, one thing is beyond dispute: It's a damn fine record.
And that's really all that matters, isn't it? (More on Crash Test Dummies)
1. I Don't Care That You Don't Mind
2. On And On
3. The Day We Never Met
4. Let It Feel Like Something Else
5. Little Secret
6. Sittin' On A Tree Stump
7. Buzzin' Flies
8. Yer Devil Ways
9. Hangin' Tree
10. Every Morning
11. Never Comin' Back
12. Put Me In A Corner Of Your Mind
13. Shoot 'Em Up, Shoot 'Em Down
14. I Never Fall Asleep At Night