Review Summary: Distinct vocals and comical tracks are not enough to save this disjointed and forgettable piece of work.
Within my brief 21-year stint on this earth, one decade in particular has stood head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to radio rock. The music of the 1990’s was an integral facet in growing up; a time when catchy mainstream alternative rock outweighed the sudden and outlandish rise of boy bands. The Third Eye Blinds and Matchbox 20s of the world remained supreme for the ten year olds of the day, provided that they continued to churn out single after single that ignited the airwaves. Maybe it’s a biased statement and maybe it’s nostalgia, but the 90’s was easily the greatest radio rock decade of my lifetime. Amongst the mainstream giants of the day were hundreds of what we like to call “one-hit wonders,” as if to pigeonhole a band’s lifetime work into a three or four minute segment. A number of these bands were justifiably labeled with this infamous title, while others flew under the radar and established cult followings. The Crash Test Dummies could easily fall into both of those categories. The band had never been well-known, although they enjoyed somewhat of an instance of fame with single “Mmm mmm mmm mmm.” Brad Roberts’ baritone vocals and very 90’s-esque instrumentation established Crash Test Dummies as a fitting commodity within the decade, even by not showcasing much distinction. Unfortunately for the Crash Test Dummies, it isn’t the 90’s anymore.
The band’s 2010 account Oohh La La almost sets the stage for something unique and quirky as the title suggests, but for the most part fails to ascertain this. Lead singer Brad Roberts is who stands out immediately when listening to the record; his conspicuous baritone so deep that it makes Matt Berninger sound like Nate Ruess in comparison. Roberts is essentially the only factor worth defining for the band, and is even overbearing at times. After getting past the ideal that Roberts brings a certain distinction to the music, his vocals grow tired. His emotional impact and versatility are minimal, very often coming off as monotonous and uninteresting. Roberts proves to be at his best however, when he is accompanied by the band’s lone female member Ellen Reid, who offers a stark contrast to the bottom of the latter. This tandem melds tremendously on “Heart of Stone,” with Reid’s soothing croon contrasting perfectly with Roberts’ calm drone. With this considered, “Heart of Stone” is easily one of the few highlights of the record; a beautiful fusion of two entirely different vocalists. “Put a Face” may be the album’s greatest accomplishment in that Roberts is not to be heard for the final two minutes of the record. The concluding track is incredibly effective in that it offers a much needed break from Roberts’ dead beat drabble.
Oooh La La proves to be disjointed in several ways, lacking a certain cohesiveness that may have yielded better results. The Crash Test Dummies appear to be attempting unique and comical tracks as well as compelling ballads, but their attempts at the former are lackluster and easy to skip. The dummies even go as far as constructing a full-blown country song, but “What I’m Famous For” is neither comical nor enjoyable (unless of course that is your thing). This reveals somewhat of an obvious Johnny Cash influence on the band; taking the music of “What I’m Famous For” and Roberts’ voice into consideration. The penultimate track “Now You See Her” can be perceived as another of the band’s attempts to be quirky, but is quite annoying with Roberts repeating “Now you see you, now you don’t.” Even some of the lower key tracks don’t seem to go anywhere, with “Not Today Baby” and “Paralyzed” accentuating this with great precision.
The Crash Test Dummies’ 2010 record Oooh La La is not a terrible effort by any means, but is an inconsistent and lacking body of work which is ultimately dull. The band offers a few disparate factors in contrasting vocals and unusually quirky tracks, but neither are utilized in such a way that Oooh La La is memorable. The nineties are light years away now, and this effort will not even create a reminiscence of the band’s “Mmm mmm mmm mmm” days.