PUBLISHED IN THE KW RECORD THURSDAY, JUNE 24
By Nick Krewen
For The Record
BRAD ROBERTS is no longer interested in keeping a lid on things, and you can blame it on Red Deer, Alberta.
Those who recall CRASH TEST DUMMIES as a mild-mannered band who gives competent, if unexciting, performances are in for a shock when the seven-piece band plays Lulu's Saturday night.
Frontman Roberts has taken on a cheesy transvestite look, wearing a cowboy hat, women's underwear and mushing lipstick all over his face as he sings selections from the Winnipeg band's fourth and current opus, Give Yourself A Hand.
"Yesterday I found this matching pink negligee and lace stockings number, which I'm debuting tonight in England," laughed Roberts a few weeks back just prior to a London concert.
To says his on-stage antics have been confusing audiences is putting it mildly.
"There's been a combination of reactions, depending on what part of the world we're in," admits a clearly amused Roberts. "For example, in Vancouver, there are many politically correct -- and in my view -- rather uptight people who gravitated to and sympthaized with our first "folkie" record.
"Those sorts of fans, when they come out to this new show, they just get up and leave. They think it's disgusting," he laughs. "There were actual letters to the editor of The Georgia Straight and The Vancouver Sun saying what an outrage it was that I could perform sexually provocative actions and be obviously drunk on stage, and how I must have completely degenerated.
"There have been others who have come up to me and said, `Frankly Brad, I was never a big Dummies fan. But this record is really cool and I like it in spite of myself.' And then there are fans that don't mind the transition, and have stuck with the band as we've grown."
Give Yourself A Hand continues the Dummies trend of providing musical left turns with every album, although this one pushes the envelope more than The Ghosts That Haunt Me, And God Shuffled His Feet and A Worm's Life combined. With his brother DAN on bass, keyboardist ELLEN REID, drummer MITCH DORGE and multi-instrumentalist BENJAMIN DARVILL at his side, Roberts explores themes of sexual preoccupation in a petulantly funky atmosphere with songs titled "Get You In The Morning,""I Love Your Goo," and "I Want To Par-tay!"
Brad Roberts' thundering baritone spends most of the album hovering in falsetto, and all of Give Yourself A Hand comes across as one big cheeky parody.
"I assure you that if it seems like a parody on the whole `Superfly' soul era, it's done with great affection," Roberts explains. "Actually, it's the most spontaneous stuff I've written, and it's the first time I wrote the lyrics before the music.
"I was drinking in my New York apartment, turned on my laptop and just wrote whatever poured out. A lot of it was crap, but after awhile it was evident some of the stuff was pretty good."
While booking its tours, the band hired MURRAY PULVER to play guitar and ex-HONEYMOON SUITE keyboardist RAY COBURN, leaving Roberts to concentrate on his role as entertainer.
Which brings us to Red Deer. It was there that Roberts entered a clothing store looking for inspiration for that night's performance.
"I walked into the store, looked at a cowboy hat, and thought, `That's a start,'" Roberts recalled recently from a British tour stop. "So I had the macho image happening, and I was looking for a contrast. Then I was looking for something really outrageous, and spotted a bra.
"Then I wore a bra underneath the clothes, and once the macho cowboys realized I wasn't laughing with them, well, they became annoyed."
Roberts says he's had fun losing his inhibitions on stage.
"You know, I've made albums that have sold millions of records, and I've made albums that have sold next to nothing, and I really don't care anymore what anybody thinks," he admits. "I find being lubricated with a few cocktails before I go on stage really helps loosen me up, and now I'm very much a frontman since I'm no longer playing guitar. I've hired someone else to do that for me.
"Performance wasn't my first passion, whereas now, when I get there out on stage I'm dressed as a cowboy in drag and I'm jumping around doing very spontaneous monologues bits in between songs, and not pre-thinking what to do with the crowd, and just letting whatever comes into my stupid head pour right out.
"It's a blast!"
And when Roberts gets home?
"I get my ya-yas out so much in the shows, that all I want to do when I get home is watch Seinfeld reruns in my underwear," he laughs.
WHO: CRASH TEST DUMMIES with Kim Stockwood
WHERE: Lulu's Concert Club
WHEN: Saturday, June 26
1991 -- The Ghosts That Haunt Me
1993 -- And God Shuffled His Feet
1996 -- A Worm's Life
1998 -- Give Yourself A Hand
1994 -- Various Artists, Dumb And Dumber
1997 -- Joe Jackson, Heaven 'N Hell (Brad Roberts)
1992 -- Juno Award, Group Of The Year
©1999 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink
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