The Arrogant Worms,
Live Bait
(self-produced, 1997)

These guys must really love Canada. It has to be nearly impossible to lampoon their homeland and to lovingly puncture its icons and traditions so thoroughly without a true sense of devotion and good-natured fondness for the place.

For a tasty dose of some anti-Canadian Canadian pride, listen to Live Bait from the Arrogant Worms. This album, filled to the gills with sly wit and unsubtle buffoonery, is a slanted homage to the Great White North.

Yes, Americans believe a host of stereotypes about their northern neighbors, and the Worms exploit them so gleefully they get laughs from Yanks and Canucks alike.

Take "The Mountie Song," which gives the lie to the stalwart image Canada's red-coated law officers usually present. "Canada's Really Big," offered up as a substitute National Anthem, insists that size does matter. "Me Like Hockey" plays up the Neanderthal fanaticism for violent athletics, while "Proud to be Canadian" offers a plenitude of reasons for the nation's superiority, summing it all up by noting, "We won't say that we're better, it's just that we're less worse."

The Worms take a more pointed look in "Mounted Animal Nature Trail," a real tourist trap in the rugged wastes of Northern Ontario, and "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate," which sets an out-of-work farmer on a questionable route to wealth. Delightful stuff!

Not every song on this live album, recorded in 1996-97 at various Canadian venues, is a winner. "Malcolm," "TV Weather Guy" and "The Ballad of Dan" all have their moments, but these witty ditties don't stand up as well to repeated listening. "Carfull [sic] of Pain" is notable primarily for the wonderful badness of the harmonica solo. "Carrot Juice is Murder," on the other hand -- well, while it might inspire riots in some grocery stores and markets, but it's definitely a keeper.

The Worms, founded in Kingston and based now in Vancouver, are Mike McCormick (vocals, guitar), Chris Patterson (vocals, bass) and Trevor Strong (vocals, "things"). I'd tell you more about them, but the biography included in the liner notes is quite obviously not to be trusted.

The album is a non-stop blast of energy, with bandmates shouting as much as singing, and the live bits of audience interaction demonstrate a genuine love of performing. There is gusto and fun a-plenty waiting here for anyone willing to bait their hooks with the Arrogant Worms.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 1 September 2001

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