film / tv / substack / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / substack / web / celeb

Screen Shot 2022-09-09 at 10.06.58 AM.png

Superman Never Made Any Money Saving the World from Solomon Grundy

By Dustin Rowles | Social Media | September 9, 2022 |

By Dustin Rowles | Social Media | September 9, 2022 |

Screen Shot 2022-09-09 at 10.06.58 AM.png

I experience a lot of anxiety these days for reasons that are obvious. When you lose routine and normalcy for the better part of a year and a half, it’s hard not to live in fear that you might again. Any day. Any hour. Any minute. Cling to your quiet, boring lives, folks, because it does not get better than making your kids breakfast, sending them off to school, working all day, making dinner for your family, and maybe catching an hour of television on the couch with your loved ones before bed. I love it. I live for it. And I never want to lose it again. I want to live the drama-free, zombie-like suburban existence that Tim Burton makes fun of in Edward Scissorhands or that Pete Seegar sings about in “Little Boxes.”

My anxiety largely centers around the fear of losing that again (and obviously, I’m even more terrified of what might precipitate that loss). There are things that I do to try and manage the anxiety. I take an anti-anxiety med, which is not that helpful. I also take an hour-long walk every morning, which has historically been the thing that helps the most. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks and generally try and check out for a few minutes before I start the day.

Recently, in order to help combat the anxiety, I’ve also started to listen to music on my walks. I was a huge music guy for a lot of years, but like a lot of folks as they get older, listening to music is often replaced by NPR or podcasts or listening to whatever songs the kids are playing or turning on the TV in the background while doing the laundry. I’ve found that a lot of the music I used to listen to — mostly singer/songwriter types — has been helpful, although the lyrics to the same songs that I might have listened to in my youth sometimes hit me in completely different ways now. I suspect a lot of folks already know this, but the act of confronting mortality in real and concrete ways has a way of rewiring our brains. I’ll be walking down the street now and a song that I used to love to listen to will hit me in a sideways fashion and I’ll find myself trying to hold back tears while ambling through the neighborhood. It’s a pretty sad sight, I won’t lie.

This morning, I woke up with a weird itch to listen to the Crash Test Dummies, something I haven’t done in years and years. Most Americans know them best for their one hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmmm,” although in Canada (from where the band hails), “Superman’s Song” was a decent-sized hit back in the day, too. Crash Test Dummies are like a lot of bands I loved in the ’90s — Toad the Wet Sprocket, Crowded House — that are much better than their one or two hit singles might suggest. They have two or three albums of insightful and often clever songs.

In fact, the lead singer of Crash Test Dummies, Brad Roberts, was a philosophy and English major in college, and it showed in their early albums. It’s why I originally loved them. He references T.S. Elliot and Sartre, and while there is a slight novelty feel to his earlier songs, there’s also some real depth to those lyrics. “Afternoons and Coffeespoons” is about a middle-aged man who is given a terminal diagnosis. “God Shuffled His Feet” is about the inscrutableness of religion. And “Superman’s Song,” which is kind of amusing on the first listen, is really a dark and almost heartbreaking song about the tragic, unappreciated, and futile life of the Man of Steel.

To be honest, I haven’t kept up with the Crash Test Dummies since the ’90s, and I guess I assumed that Brad Roberts went on to become a lit professor at some liberal arts college in a small town in Canada. It’s what I like to imagine, anyway.

But then I found a live album on Spotify from just a few years ago. That’s not what happened to Brad Roberts. This live album sounded like it was taped on an iPhone in a small club, and the Crash Test Dummies consisted of basically Roberts and the guitarist. Roberts was clearly drunk. He was talking about ripping wet farts on stage, blowing an audience member, and generally just kind of embarrassing himself. At some point, he said that the local newspaper had called him “Crush Test Drunk,” and he railed about how it used to be cool and “rock n’ roll” to get drunk and high, and why isn’t it anymore?

After I got home, I looked him up. There’s an interview on someone’s blog where he’s asked if he’s still influenced by his English and philosophy degrees in his songwriting. His answer was both tongue-in-cheek and very much not:

my studies very much influenced my earlier songwriting, which tended to be more cerebral than my current work. nowadays, i have grown bored of trying to figure things out. i don’t read anymore. at present, i am inspired not by philosophy and literature, but rather by alcohol and prostitutes. ctd’s new record is mainly about getting drunk and masturbating and going to strip clubs. it’s the best work i have done, and i am very glad to be freed from the shackles of the mind.

I looked up a review of the album he was talking about, and he’s not lying.

The Dummies make the amateur mistake of confusing smugness for detached insight — one of their traditional problems — and inject strange scatological and guttural references to promote their indifference. This approach fails: the words become odd, desperate attempts to sound distant and invulnerable (“Stop frickin’ with me,” “I love your goo”?) that end up laughable.

In fact, on that live album I heard — which is as much his drunk ramblings as it his music — he talks about making friends with the “crack hos” and maybe paying to sleep “with the brown one.” The last many years are also littered with reviews of concerts in small venues where Brad Roberts is often drunk and mean on stage.

A really drunk guy is sitting at the table next to ours. He yells out “Superman”. This is meant to be taken as a request. It is kind of funny. But Brad is unamused. He mocks the guy— slurring out the word with great exaggeration. Something like “SUPE..BA…MAN,,,, SUPE..BA…MAN”. It made me feel uncomfortable. It seemed mean. Later, he made fun of the guy again, yelling, in that same dumb voice, that he had drank twelve beers before he had even arrived:It created tension. There was no charm, no humour, in this.

I read that he had a memorably disastrous, drunken, and crass performance at the Winnipeg Music Festival in 2010 that he had to apologize for 2 years later. “Singer Brad Roberts was clearly drunk and put on a terrible performance,” one guy wrote. “‘Sloppy and foul mouthed’ was how the local media described it. People were leaving in droves.”

The point is that he’s not a college professor at a small liberal arts school. He’s a drunken lout who’s probably alienated the rest of the band, and he performs in small venues and often seems to resent his shrinking audiences. He’s a Tom Perrotta character. He’s not even hanging on to his past glory so much as he’s going through the motions, trying to eke out a living so he doesn’t have to settle into a boring tedious life where he picks up kids’ socks and cuts off crusts and spends too long making weekly dinner menus for meals that his theoretical kids will barely touch. Brad Roberts doesn’t know what he’s missing, because the best part of life is in those banal moments, it’s in griping because you have to let the dog in because no one else will again, and it’s in watching movies on the couch with kids who won’t f**king stop talking so you can hear the damn movie.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, don’t live for your next vacation, or that poker game next month, or the movie that is coming out in 2024. Live for the never-ending errands, the chores, and for all those nights that are so indistinguishable they often blur together. That’s the stuff. That’s the best part of life.