The Arrogant Worms,
(self-produced, 1999)

I dare you to listen to this CD and not laugh! OK, so there may be a few people out there with no sense of humor at all (my junior high math teacher comes to mind), but for the rest of us the Arrogant Worms have compiled a collection of satire, silliness and punnery to elicit smiles, chuckles and guffaws. They called it Dirt! Even the movie credit-style liner notes are funny.

The CD opens with their tribute to whining love songs, "A Man Has Needs." In this case, he needs a clear view of the televised monster truck finals and a cold beer before his nap. The Canadian trio, Chris Patterson, Trevor Strong and Mike McCormick deliver the anguished chorus with burning sincerity.

The next song, a take-off on the John Henry legend, makes fun of one of their own. In it, Strong sings about Mike McCormick, a "Steel Drivin' Man," who's not really very good or enthusiastic about driving spikes. The guys, who harmonize superbly on their own, are joined on this song by Bob McCormick, whose deep bass voice resonates all the way to the railroad era. "Dad can really go subsonic," Mike McCormick said. "It was fun having him in the studio."

It's difficult to pick out highlights of the remaining 12 songs because there are just so many soaring moments. "Great to be a Nerd" skitters about frenetically like the Animaniacs, Patterson's "Celine Dion" is a delight. McCormick's opening description of Canada leads to the repetitive silliness of "rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees." Johnny Came Home Headless" is a brainy punfest; you'll never hear the lyric "I ain't got no body" without giggling again. The hair-band rock ballad "Log In To You" adds an entirely new perspective to Internet romance.

While the lyrics, all written by the band, are hilarious, the Arrogant Worms also demonstrate their musical diversity. They offer a sumptuous buffet of musical genres from the country-inspired "Heimlich Maneuver" to the hymn-like "I am Cow" to the grunge rock shouting of the very, very brief "Sponges." Regardless of style, the Arrogant Worms' harmonies shine. From the "Burn, burn, burn" of the first track through the "Canada" segment of "Rocks and Trees" to the "ooooh oooh" chorus of "Scary Ned," their voices combine in smooth, polished tones. These guys could sing pop songs (not that they'd ever do something so gauche), but fortunately chose to harmonize humor.

The three Ontario natives, who usually perform with only their voices and a guitar, are joined on this tightly-engineered CD by a talented band including producer Andy Thompson on keyboards, Terry Tufts on electric guitar, Andrew Affleck on bass and accordion, Jon Park-Wheeler on guitars and mandolin, Al Cross on drums, Craig Bignell on drums, percussion and banjo, and Don Reed on fiddle. Stephen Fearing makes a guest appearance on acoustic guitar on "Celine Dion."

Dirt!, the Arrogant Worms most recent release -- though they promise another in September 2001 -- is an excellent introduction to their singing and silliness.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 4 August 2001

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