The Mnemonic Devices

Rusty Spell created this spin-off to his solo projects, forcing a strict keyboard-only rule. The multiple female vocalists (and his own lowish voice), poppy tunes, and clever lyrics make the concept band well worth listening to.

see Rusty Spell, The Strawberry Explosion, The Immaculate Conceptions, Synthetic Fibers, 'nikcuS, Robert Brenton, The Naked Donnas, Gospel Assembly

Information: Love and Letters Music
Suggested first purchase/album: Sparkling Objective Correlatives
Suggested best of: The Singles Collection

20th Century Literary Problem (1996) -- Featuring sometimes spare/sometimes lush keyboard arrangements, the best lyrics this side of Stephin Merritt, and the "somehow this works" amateur vocals of Rusty Spell and Debi Spell, this debut album is satisfying as a thematically related group of short storyish songs. Highlights include "I Used Up All Your Icons" and "Is That the Same Moon?" B

I Don't Remember (1997) -- The grooves are deeper and drums are harder, thickening out this second release. The problems the characters encounter in this album are either less serious ("I Like You") or more ("Anyway"). Those two are highlights as well as "Missing You." B

Midi Skirt (1998) -- The last album with Debi Spell on vocals barely features her at all. The album itself also sounds weirder, moving from verse-chorus pop songs and into something which would be freeform if it weren't for all the structure imposed on every single measure. Highlights include "The Emperor's New Song," the Debi-and-Rusty penned "Dreams In a Jar," "Cut It Out," and the heartbreaking "Our Hurricane." A

The 5 Remaining Love Songs EP (1999) -- This EP features vocals by Rusty Spell only, and four out of the five songs are by Stephin Merritt. The twist to this album (the other twist) is that all the songs are played on five different piano voices. B

All This Wasted Beauty (1999) -- Six different female vocalists, more samples than ever before (the only "instrument" Spell allows besides the keyboard) including drum loops, and an overall heavy wash of production provides this album with a radically different sound from the sparse predecessors. It is also probably the most accessible. Highlights include "Finally" and "Should I Talk Slower?" A

Zooming In On Fractals (2001) -- Taking the previous album one step further, the instruments are completely different than the standard General MIDI lineup of the past. New vocalist Liza Marshall gives the album focus and her sweet vocals give the album a needed innocence even while it is thematically more concerned with sex ("By You") and hatred ("Don't Go There") than ever. An experience for your ears. A

The Singles Collection (1996-2001) (1996-2001) -- Do The Mnemonic Devices need this collection? Sure. It serves several purposes, perhaps the most important of which is to be a good starter for anyone interested in this band and the music they've been making for the past five years. Then they've been remixed if you're in the mood to listen to shorter pop singles without the full album versions destroying your musical "fix." None of the mixes improve the songs, of course, but I don't know a single version that ever has improved the original. Like everything Rusty Spell does, of course, this is also a joke about singles (as evidenced by his pictures of cheese singles--100% pure cheese--pictures of radios, and single men and women). The good thing about The Mnemonic Devices is that they work as a singles band and a band who makes great albums, so either way you go you're safe. A

Sparkling Objective Correlatives (2002) -- A happy version of Zooming In On Fractals, with more vocalists than All This Wasted Beauty. Not many surprises at this point, other than the fact that Rusty keeps putting out great songs, and that the filler is reduced to nothing. A

Love Chewed Off Its Leg EP (2004) -- The first EP since The 5 Remaining Love Songs EP, and the first of originals. The shorter form seems to work here, almost like a collection of five singles: three fast, two slow. The featured Devicette on this album is Carrie Hoffman who at this point also began work with Rusty on The Strawberry Explosion. A

Boys Can Be Pretty Too EP (2005) -- Another five song EP of material recorded at roughly the same time as the previous.  Liza Marshall provided the female vocals for this release, which features the dance-based "Take It Higher," the pretty "Young James," and a cover of the Frogs song "She Was a Mortal." A

Copyright (c) Jul 2000 - Sep 2005 by Rusty Likes Music