Crash Test Dummies

Oooh La-La!

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Everything is different and everything is the same on Oooh-La-La!, Crash Test Dummies' first album after a six-year hiatus. Different because Brad Roberts, assisted by Antony & the Johnsons' producer Stewart Lerman, composed the bulk of the record with old toy instruments, relying in particular on the Optigan, an electronic instrument that came crammed with rhythmic presets. Each preprogrammed rhythm represented a different musical style, so Roberts wrote accordingly, whittling “Paralyzed” from a gauche ¾ jazz sway, “Not Today Baby” in a cabaret shuffle, “Lake Bras d’Or” in a continental crawl, crafting “Now You See Her” out of a flapper jitterbug, and finding “What I’m Famous For” in hyper-country 2-step, something that takes full advantage of how his baritone echoes Johnny Cash. Same because this is still Crash Test Dummies, a band constitutionally incapable of playing things straight, and instead of adding depth, the stylistic potpourri of Ooh-La-La! only emphasizes their inherent jokiness. Now, there have been plenty of bands that walk the fine line of musical parody, having a laugh without neglecting the music, but Roberts has an annoying tendency to sound like he’s barely suppressing his smirk as he sings, laughing at his own jokes like a hack comedian. To be sure, he has some skill -- it’s impressive how he pulled songs out of the Optigan -- but by sounding so delighted with his own cleverness, he undermines the whole shebang.

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