The Arrogant Worms,
Toast!
(self-produced, 2004)

How can a single nation claim for itself the name of two entire continents? That question is examined in some depth when the Arrogant Worms wonder why they, as Canadians, cannot call themselves "Americans."

At what point did the "United Statesians" usurp the label? Isn't Canada in America, too? What about Peruvians and Panamanians? Conversely, why can Hawaiians and residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands get away with it when they don't even live in the Americas?

The deep, philosophical questions of this song dominate Toast!, a new live recording by the Arrogant Worms, a popular, never dull, often surprising and somewhat loopy band from the great American province of Ontario.

Toast! is filled entirely with new material from the band, so don't look for any repeats from previous albums. And the track list is littered with winners that will no doubt become crowd favorites. Not everything is as deep, thoughtful or politically charged as "I am Not American," however. For example, I submit the over-the-top fun of "I Pulled My Groin," which two members of the band refuse to sing, or the zesty repetitiveness of "Wolfe Island Ferry."

A personal favorite -- besides the previously mentioned "American," of course -- is "Shipwreck Balladeer," which laments the loss of livelihood of a man who sings about ships going down in rough seas in an age when that sort of things doesn't happen very often. You can feel his pain when each ship sails safely into the harbor!

The band gets its money's worth from particle board, which is the grist for their mill in "Hot Dog Song" ("the particle board of meat") and "Particle Board," which deals less with hardware than love. Love is also at issue in the cleverly cynical "New Car Smell."

Mike McCormick, Chris Patterson and Trevor Strong are the musical zanies responsible for this and nine previous CDs. For this June 2003 performance at Hugh's Room in Toronto, they were joined by a lively band of backup musicians; they don't sing, but they're certainly not unsung -- they get enthusiastic recognition mostly when they're not playing.

Toast! is a great addition to the Arrogant Worms' canon. In addition to 15 new songs -- every one of which is a treat -- the album provides plenty of live banter and general nutsiness with the band's eager fans. You'd be hard-pressed to find a band more outrageous or genuinely gleeful in its antics, and the whomp-on-your-head subtlety of their humor will keep you coming back for more.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 20 March 2004

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