Best Of 2010, Guest Editors: Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts On They’re Really Your Songs, After All

As 2010 comes to an end, we are taking a look back at some of our favorite posts of the year by our guest editors.

CrashTestlogoCrash Test Dummies are best known for their 1993 worldwide hit “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” yet the Canadian band put out six more albums after that before going on hiatus in 2005. CTD is back this week with Oooh La La (Deep Fried) but in a brand new incarnation. Mainman Brad Roberts (now based in New York City) wrote and recorded the album with producer and engineer Stewart Lerman (Antony And The Johnsons, Marshall Crenshaw, Roches) using ’70s musical toys such as the Optigan for the majority of the LP. (The two were joined on Oooh La La by longtime CTD backing vocalist Ellen Reid.) The result is the happiest-sounding record of Roberts’ two-decade career. Roberts will be guest editing all week. Read our new Q&A with him.


Roberts: As a lyricist, I have slaved over my craft, trying always to be inventive and cohesive. I have taken pains to jot down dialogue and small epiphanies, to scrawl on bar napkins and to watch my own mind take flight and try to arrest it on the page, metered and rhymed and melodic. I have tried to conjure the absurd, the hopelessness, the wonder and the pettiness. I have evolved from setting lyrics to melody to setting melody to lyric. Sometimes, it pours out of me; sometimes, the well is dry. If I am not careful, I begin to equate myself with my writing, and on days when the writing does not go well, neither does the day itself. This is a fatal error and a common one among artists in all mediums, driving them to both madness and greatness. And yet at the end of the day, the songs I write are really about the people who hear them. Listeners bestow personal meaning upon songs that is much more powerful than any set of lyrics could hold. Songs are often associated with a time or place or circumstance; they are related to them as memories from the past; they are absorbed into the unconscious and sometimes appear in dreams. Just as smell triggers a memory, so too can a song produce a flood of feeling. The same song is a million songs in the minds of millions of listeners. I am blessed to be able to make a living sharing my songs with a listening audience. It is they who should be interviewed and asked, “What does this song mean?” rather than the writer himself.

Video after the jump.