Vinyl love: Crash Test Dummies “The ghosts that haunt me”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Crash Test Dummies
Album Title: The ghosts that haunt me
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2019
Details: Black vinyl, reissue

The skinny: A couple of songs from this very album have already seen the light on these pages: the Winnipeg folk-rock band’s cover of The Replacements’ “Androgynous” and their first huge and at the time ubiquitous hit, “Superman’s song”. It was in that latter post that I went on about how I bought the cassette tape on the back of that song, how it spent a lot of time in my Walkman, and how I likely would’ve worn it out had it not been stolen first. I also mentioned how I would love to have it on vinyl and since that time, noticed that the Crash Test Dummies’ sophomore album, “God shuffled his feet”, was getting the reissue treatment. And yeah, it probably did better commercially but I was still partial to the debut so I held out. One day last month, I was scrolling through the Amazon Vinyl pre-orders list, as I sometimes do, and I found this sitting there for the taking. There was no hesitation. I received it a few days ago and it’s already hit my platter a few a go-rounds. Just like the old days.

Standout track: “The ghosts that haunt me”

100 best covers: #84 Crash Test Dummies “Androgynous”

<< #85    |    #83 >>

Back at the end of April, I railed on about my love for the “The ghosts that haunt me”, the debut album by Winnipeg’s Crash Test Dummies, as part of my Best tunes of 1991 series (“Superman’s song” at #24). That darned cassette definitely got a workout in both my Walkman and my stereo while at home. I played it so often that I pretty much knew all the words to all ten songs on the album, though I’m sure studying the lyrics in the foldout cassette cover didn’t hurt. It was here that I was first tipped off that “Androgynous”, track three on side two, was a cover, the lyrics attributed to a “P. Westerberg”.

It was years, though, before I made the connection between that name and the legendary American punk rock band from the 80s: The Replacements. And years still until I actually sat down to listen to the original. It was, in fact, just this past week that I brought it up on YouTube, figuring I should probably do so since I’d be writing about it. I almost felt like a cheat when I made up this covers list, including Crash Test Dummies’ version on it as one of my favourite ever, not knowing the song on which it was based. But back in the day, I loved singing along to this song so much.

“Here come Dick, he’s wearing a skirt
Here comes Jane, you know she’s sporting a chain
Same hair, revolution
Same build, evolution
Tomorrow who’s gonna fuss
And they love each other so
Androgynous”

The version I know starts off slow and plodding, folky like the rest of the album, while Brad Robert’s bass-baritone melds with Ellen Reid’s angelic textures, until it picks up to a foot stomping climax. I checked out two versions of The Replacements performing it: what I think is the original and a live version performed in recent years. Their original has a juke joint rockabilly feel, plonking piano and sing along vocals but live, it has an even more raw edge, focused more with guitars.

Given that I haven’t as yet put aside time to explore more of The Replacements’ work, I don’t know how this song even fits within their back catalogue. I do like their version as well, so does this mean I need to check them out? Replacements fans, help me out.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best tunes of 1991: #24 Crash Test Dummies “Superman’s song”

<< #25    |    #23 >>

For some reason, I don’t remember the moment I discovered “Superman’s song”, though I definitely remember it being a big part of my musical experience back in 1991. It probably started with the music video that gained a lot of traction on MuchMusic and became impossible to avoid for a while, the funeral for the man of steel seeming utterly bleak and impressionable, given its low attendance and guests including almost unrecognizable and aged superheroes. I most certainly purchased the album, Crash Test Dummies’ debut, “The ghosts that haunt me”, on cassette tape on the back of this song and it accompanied me, care of my yellow Sony Sports Walkman on many walks and on the bus rides to and from high school. I have very vivid memories of trying to explain their sound to a girl in our high school library one afternoon during spare period. She had told me that she found the cover art, a turquoise rendering of a Doré print, interesting after noting it on the table I was sitting at, though I later discovered she had a crush on me and couldn’t have cared less about the band. I loved that tape to pieces and would have worn it out had it not been stolen first. It’s also one that I’d love to own on vinyl if it ever gets a reissue.

Crash Test Dummies were a folk rock band that formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that the group got their start at an open mike night, varying musicians surrounding songwriter Brad Roberts that eventually solidified into a consistent group. Their original sound was lively folk, featuring traditional instruments, but as the albums started to churn out, became more electric and straightforward rock. What really set them apart, though, was the deep deep bass-baritone of Roberts, especially when blended with Ellen Reid’s angelic backing vocals. The dichotomy was jarring but beautiful.

“Superman’s song” was the group’s very first single and was huge in Canada. And I could be wrong but I thought I heard it said that it was one of the first songs Roberts had ever written. It certainly sounds like it could have been written by a child. There’s something very simple and innocent about it, though dark at the same time, taking for its theme the death of a superhero and imagining what sort of eulogy he would have gotten. It trudges along with the funeral procession, a piano keeping pace and a cello crying in the wings, while Robert’s voice rumbles deep to the bottom of all of our hearts. Yup.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.