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- Posted on Jun 28th 2007 2:00PM by Randall Snare
'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,' Crash Test Dummies
From 1993's 'God Shuffled His Feet'
Weird things happen in Winnipeg. The capital of Manitoba -- besides housing the Royal Canadian Mint -- is also the birthplace of rockers Crash Test Dummies of 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' fame. This creepy fairy tale, told in a deep baritone over a gentle mingling of keys and acoustic guitar, is the stuff of nightmares.
Set in everyone's favorite time period -- adolescence -- the song tells a story of three abnormal young children. The first is a boy, absent from school because of a car crash. When he returns, his hair has turned completely white due to shock. The next is a young girl who refuses to undress in the changing room with everyone else. When forced, it's revealed that birthmarks cover her entire body. These epsiodes are interspersed with a long series of "mmms" from singer-songwriter Brad Roberts. Is he judging? Marveling? Pondering? Whatever the interpretation, it's in the lowest of registers and therefore, sinister. All of this over a lovely, almost quiet melody. Juxtaposition does wonders.
The tale ends with the story of a boy "whose parents made him come directly home right after school." This kid arguably has it worse off than the others, even though he is bereft of a physical deformity. He is, in fact, a Shaker (a Protestant religious denomination). "They shook and lurched all over the church floor," Roberts sings. When's the last time you heard a Shaker reference in a pop song? (Nevermind the inaccurate reference -- Shakers weren't allowed to procreate. Rather, they maintained their population by orphan adoption or conversion.)
The song ends when the "mmms" turn to "ahhhs"; when a woman's alto voice enters the mix and they harmonize into a fade; when you're left a little confused and slightly distrubed. Mmm indeed.
Randall Snare is a Spinner reader from Brooklyn, New York. She co-founded a travel magazine, Meander, which lauches later this summer.
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