Home Read Classic Album Review: Crash Test Dummies | I Don’t Care That You...

Classic Album Review: Crash Test Dummies | I Don’t Care That You Don’t Mind

It's not your typical Dummies album — but it's a damn fine record nonetheless.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

When is a Crash Test Dummies album not a Crash Test Dummies album? It’s a fair question — and one I suspect plenty of fans will be asking once they get ahold of I Don’t Care That You Don’t Mind. Especially when they see the liner notes and realize Brad Roberts is the only bandmember who plays on it. There’s no Ben Darvill. No Mitch Dorge. Hell, even Brad’s bro Dan is MIA. They’ve all been replaced by a cadre of East Coast players and session cats. Only Ellen Reid crops up — as a background singer. Reportedly, the band (minus Darvill) will be touring together. But even so, this kinda makes you wonder what’s up. Is Brad just using the band name for convenience, or is he finally making official what most folks have always known: That when it comes down to it, he is Crash Test Dummies?

Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that I Don’t Care… is not your usual Dummies album. At least not when compared to the quirky intellectualism and electronic hip-pop of 1999’s Give Yourself A Hand and 1996’s A Worm’s Life. I Don’t Care — as the name implies — is a loosey-goosey, sometimes rebellious affair, with Roberts exchanging his downtown cynicism for downhome simplicity. He’s unplugged the synthesizers and drum machines, he’s shelved the literary, overly mannered lyrics, he’s sent home the fancy-pants producers. From stem to stern, I Don’t Care… is an intimate, joyously DIY affair, with Roberts leading a ragtag band of lobster fisherman (no, I’m not making this up) through a slate of heart-squeezing, earnest ballads and twisted, rootsy ditties.

Why the change? Good question. Maybe it’s because he’s no longer constrained by a major-label deal and its inherent pressure to produce singles. Or maybe it’s because these cuts were completed in the aftermath of his near-fatal car wreck last fall. Whatever the reason, I Don’t Care… is a back-to-basics album and something of a return to rootsy form. If anything, it will remind the faithful of the days when Roberts owned the stage at the Blue Note, serenading late-night drinkers with his keen eye for observation and keen ear for beautiful melody.

Both are found in ample quantity here. For a guy who spent years delivering his lyrics with an arched eyebrow and an ironic smirk, Roberts plays it surprisingly much of the time. And pulls it off surprisingly well. In fact, I Don’t Care… has some of his strongest, least contrived material in years. The Day We Never Met is a lazily strummed, lightly jazzy blues that could have been lifted from an old Leonard Cohen disc; Let It Feel Like Something Else has the dreamy, shimmering ebb and flow of classic Cowboy Junkies; the conspiratorial Little Secret is a song Tom Waits would have been happy to write, if only for lyrics such as, “I like nights when there’s no moon / I like suckin’ on snakebite wounds.” Now and then, Roberts even seems to allude to his brush with death: “Come with me down this ol’ road / Where I got stuck and later towed,” he invites on the sweet On and On. “Listen to the sound of the falling rain / We just might end up stuck again.” Later, on Yer Devil Ways, he warns, “Don’t let your car go off the road / Remember that you’re hauling a heavy load.”

But if you think Roberts has been scared straight by his mishap, think again. The other half of I Don’t Care is a hilariously raucous affair, with basso profundo Brad exploring a greasy musical backwoods of pickup trucks, buzzing flies, guns and drugs. The title cut is a loping country ode to guilt-free imbibing; Sittin’ on a Tree Stump is a swampy bowl of redneck gumbo midway between Dr. John and Dr. Hook, with lyrics like, “Look at the TV, it’s all crappy / Look at the bald spot on yer pappy;” Every Morning is a tale of misanthropic love set to sweet Memphis soul; Never Comin’ Back is a lounge lament to the love that ran away; Put Me In a Corner of Your Mind combines twangy guitars with toreador horns and Ennio Morricone overtones; and if Johnny Cash doesn’t cover the insomniac ballad I Never Fall Asleep at Night, it’s his loss.

Doesn’t sound much like the work of the guy who wrote Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, does it? Well, ultimately, what’s the diff? Whether or not I Don’t Care That You Don’t Mind is a Crash Test Dummies disc or Brad Roberts’ first solo album, one thing is beyond dispute: It’s a damn fine record. And that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?