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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Crash Test Dummies Offer Light Parables at Palace

March 07, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN

You can't say the Crash Test Dummies lack for lyrical breadth. The Canadian group's show on Friday at the Palace began with "God Shuffled His Feet," in which the act of creation is immediately followed by humanity's questioning what the hell all those parables are about, and closed with "At My Funeral," a song in which, singer Brad Roberts explained, "I'm cheerfully put into a grave and the worms eat me." Yep, that pretty much covers it.

In between, with skittish songs weighing in on dualism, mortality and weird places the mind might wander during sex, the Dummies deigned to combine a healthy morbidity with an agreeably light touch, the obvious quirks veering near but avoiding a disastrous collision with preciousness. Their "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" is the season's unlikeliest hit, and the Palace show--combining material from the band's two albums--showed there's more quasi-philosophically quizzical, anecdotal delights where that came from. They seem to like parables just as much as God, and it works for 'em.

Roberts, one of rock's rare baritones, looks and sounds a little like a cross between Iggy Pop and Dan Aykroyd. Screwing up his face or winding up a weird world-view curveball, he's usually as amusing as he means to be; a capable raconteur, he doesn't overplay the wit quite so much as to negate the implicit pain. The band underscored his musings in a nice, gentle way, rollicking if not really rocking out, just driving enough on the debut album's country-flavored material as well as the new one's more mainstream folky-rock.

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