Crash Test Dummies

A Worm's Life

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Among the slew of quirk-rock bands which achieved Billboard success during the absurdist invasion of the '90s, Crash Test Dummies were perhaps the least likely. Their 1993 breakthrough single, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," cracked the usually straitlaced adult contemporary scene by concealing its affable oddness in an irresistibly lilting fairytale hook. But having accomplished the improbable transition from obscure Canadian folk band to ubiquitous pop phenomenon, the task of producing a convincing follow-up somehow proved an insurmountable challenge. Released in 1996, A Worm's Life finds singer-songwriter Brad Roberts rummaging through his repetroire in a futile search for a new idea. His glossy pop hooks seem to run over and over again into tunes he's already written. When Roberts isn't doing that routine, he's trying in vain to fit wordy lyrics into memorable melodies. The uninspired guitar-driven production (which has now left the band's folk roots behind altogether) doesn't help matters. Fortunately, even on a bad day, Roberts' amusingly eccentric lyrics are more interesting than those of most of his fellow quirk-rockers. The album ages well upon repeated listens, largely thanks to his odd, XTC-esque observations on everyday mundanities and philosophical problems.

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