Rusty Spell of 'nikcuS goes solo, making album after album, seldom repeating himself, occupying the music with whatever is on his mind at the time.
see The Mnemonic Devices, 'nikcuS, The Immaculate Conceptions, The Strawberry Explosion, Synthetic Fibers, Robert Brenton, The Naked Donnas, Gospel Assembly
Information: Love and Letters Music
Suggested first purchase/best of: Age 20 to 30
Suggested First Album: Plagiarism 2
Mailbox (1995) -- This debut solo album runs as a combination "going solo" parody and naive autobiography of a twenty year old. It has a few real songs, a few interesting songs, and a few songs which just get in the way. Highlights include "Blue" and "No Way of Knowing."
Covers by Casio (1996) -- This is all right to listen to if you're absolutely in the mood for cheap Casio covers of a bizarre mixtures of songs. The most successful covers are Julia Pietrus's "Panoramic Lens," The 6ths' "Puerto Rico Way," R.E.M.'s "Stand," Natalie Merchant's "Jealousy," and They Might Be Giants' "Till My Head Falls Off."
Experiments and Outtakes (1998) -- This collection of outtakes, experimental recordings, answering machine messages, and anything else Rusty could dig up is Rusty's best album to this point, providing a link from his more 'nikcuS-sounding past recordings to his future recordings where he comes into his own (not to mention that most of the outtakes are alternate vocal versions of Rusty's "real" band, The Mnemonic Devices). Every track is interestingly listenable in its own way.
Christmas Again (1998) -- Christmas through the eyes of Rusty Spell, a mixture of the sacred and goofy. "It's Christmas Again" and "Xmas Blah Blah Blah" sound like Mnemonic Devices Christmas songs; "Jingle Bells," the hilarious "No Virginia," the grungy "Ebenezer Scrooge," "Joy to the World," and the rap "Rudolph vs The Man" sound like 'nikcuS Christmas songs; others like "Silver Bells" and "O Holy Night" get careful treatment. Other Christmas album classics are called upon, with Rusty pitch-shifting his voice for "The Chipmunk Song" and doing his best Elvis with "Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees." It's basically a mix of every Christmas album you've heard with a thick layer of Rusty on top.
indie rock credibility (1999) -- The shift from previous Rusty Spell albums to this one is frightening, and it's a frightening album anyway. It's certainly his best to this point, even though he wrote and recorded all fifteen songs in a straight six hour session (though the songs sound more carefully-crafted than most songs from previous albums). There's a dark little theme running through here, though we're not quite sure what it is. Highlights include "The Matter," "Size 28 Jeans," "Hambone," "Valentine's Day," "Dead Father," and "Hyperboles."
Alterna-Chick (2000) -- Rusty wanted to make an album of "listenable noise" and succeeds pretty well with this one, mingling the noise with melody so that it's about 60% noise and 40% song throughout. Falling-apart cars are driving through most of the album, along with spookily-recorded instruments, scary noises, endless arguments, pitch-crazy vocals, clock ticks for ant ears... Rusty is barely present, except when singing love songs about his alterna-chick Liza.
Rusty Spell Strums The Mnemonic Devices (2000) -- Rusty spent a night or two recording all of his Mnemonic Devices songs with just him and an acoustic guitar. He selected the eighteen most successful translations and put them on this album, which sounds like a demo of the songs, even though the real versions existed first. It's interesting for what it is, and the songs are good.
This Album Belongs To... (2000) Rusty Spell making a children's album is sort of redundant, but it's here anyway, and it sounds less like an adult singing for kids and more like a boyish young man singing to the kid still inside himself. Be warned, it is a children's album, with little for grown-ups to appreciate. But if you're prepared to hear the tracks about boogers and pooting over and over again in your house, your kids giggling till their stomachs hurt, get this one for them. They'll love you for it. Highlights include the sound-effects-filled "Sounds Like This," "Boogers," and the charming little ukulele-driven story, "The Boy Who Couldn't Fall Asleep."
The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs Vol. 1 (2001) -- As Rusty put it, "If I would have written these songs, this would be my best album." As it is, however, what we have is a very good and interesting cover of an entire album (which, by the way, is something pretty insane to do: most people just stick with songs). Where Merritt's shtick was doing every genre of music of the 20th century, Rusty's angle was to make each song sound different from the previous in terms of production. It's a weird and pretty cool album.
The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs Vol. 2 (2002) -- The songs get even more complicated on this one, and it sounds as if Rusty is spending more times on these songs than on his own. Though sources say each song took a short time to make.
The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs Vol. 3 (2002) -- Even more surprises. The biggest surprise is that it was finished. It's one thing for Merritt to do it, and another thing for Rusty to do it again.
Plagiarism (2002) -- After being occupied with remaking someone else's album for the past two years, doing a children's album the previous year, and covering his own songs from another band, Rusty makes what might arguably be called his "fourth album" (Mailbox, indie rock credibility, and Alterna-Chick being the first three), a very solid collection of original songs. Which is funny, since the concept of the album was to sound like other people, to "plagiarize" their style (kind of like what Liam Lynch later did with his "fake songs"). The album becomes a game ("Who's he doing?"), but it also makes the album interesting in its diversity, each song sounding different based on the music and vocals Rusty is emulating.
Loud Cymbals: 18 Gospel Songs (2002) -- The genre is gospel this time, and -- though this is by no means a traditional gospel album nor a "Contemporary Christian" one -- Rusty plays everything more or less straight (for him). There are only two original songs, and the rest of the selections are a mix of gospel standards and pop songs that may or may not have originally been intended as spiritual songs. The arrangements have a warm feel to them, and it's not too surprising that older, more traditional fans of gospel music have enjoyed it (indeed, thanks to the genre, this is so far Rusty's best-selling album).
I Can Write These Songs, Now My Folks Are Dead (2003) -- With both of Rusty's parents being very much alive, Rusty records this album (inspired by Will Oldham) of creepy tunes that are even more creepy for the fact that they were adlibbed one after the other, coming straight from Rusty's guts (or wherever). Consistent throughout, soundwise and lyrically, creating the most solid statement Rusty's done so far.
Live Shows Vol. 1 (Dec 2000-Nov 2001): He Said It Would Never Happen (2000-2001/2003) -- A compilation of small venue live shows done over a period of a year (though only four shows total) banded together so that it sounds like one solid show. The songs included here are all interesting for one reason or another, whether as fun versions of other people's songs or radical re-interpretations of his own. Oh, and as some sort of an inside joke, a studio bonus track of They Might Be Giants' "Dr. Worm."
Charles Grodin (2003) -- Charles Grodin was the title Rusty had wanted his second album after Mailbox (second real album, not counting the experiments of the first few followups) to be called, but he didn't record it because he said he was in a different place in his life, and the fun album Charles Grodin was meant to be had passed him by and he did indie rock credibility and some darker stuff instead. But in 2003, he must have perked up, because here it is. This is practically another children's album, with a handful of songs appearing from kids' movies like Popeye, Fun and Fancy Free, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "Ralphie" is a Christmas song about A Christmas Story, "Hanky Panky" is a 'nikcuS song that was recorded in 1991 then lost, and "The Ballad of Presto" is a song that Rusty used to play every time a piano was around as a joke. It sounds like a way goofy album, and it is, but it works, and for some fans it's Rusty's best -- or at least most charming -- album.
Plagiarism 2 (2005) -- Rusty's first "sequel" album, this one is twelve more songs that mimic the style of twelve different artists. The arrangements and production on this version are more fancy and "dark" (not in the usual sense of the word) than the first, and the songs are arguably better, more interesting, and more enjoyable. A successful album after a two year hiatus of solo-album making, something that hasn't been done since the very early days.
Live Shows Vol. 2 (Mar 2002-Apr 2004): Why I Never Do This, Why I Sometimes Do (2002-2004/2005) -- Put together in exactly the same way as volume one (right down to the opening "Dr. Worm" cover). Many of the performances on this album are an improvement over Rusty's earlier, sloppier shows.
Age 20 to 30 (1995-2005, 2005) -- Rusty's first compilation of what he refuses to call a "best of," preferring "retrospective," which makes sense as Rusty Spell the solo artist only has a handful of well-known songs (not many "hits") and since putting out a true "best of" would require skipping over half of his catalogue, Rusty always purposefully putting out sub-par albums for one reason or another. So the collection doesn't a decent job of at least skimming the surface of this huge bulk of stuff (it all fits on one disc--barely, at 79 minutes and some seconds) and pointing potential fans in the right direction. Find the songs you like, then buy the albums those songs are on. Avoid the albums that contain the songs you don't like. If nothing else, this collection of Rusty in his twenties makes you look forward to the stuff he'll come up with in his thirties.
Part of This Was Always Here (or: Remove That Hero's Jawbone) (2007) -- An instrumental album, using only the acoustic guitar. But not just an acoustic guitar album: one where the notes aren't strummed but "finger drummed." The least parodic of all of Rusty's albums, and the most soothing.
The Golem (2007) -- Rusty was asked to do a score for the silent film The Golem. The entirety of the previous album provided some of that score (as well as the song "Don't!"). This CD consists of the all-new material recorded specifically for the project. By nature it is uneven for listening, since it is meant to accompany a film, but it's got some interesting things to hear, including a memorable theme song.
Copyright (c) Sep 2000 - Jan 2008 by Rusty Likes Music