Review by Rusty W. Spell
What can I say? I love the fish. The only thing not perfect about this album is the ugly photographs. And there are some good ones of those (picture above "Full Moon Over Russia," below "Take Me In Your Hand," those beside "Me and Stupid," under "The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos," beside "You Are a Treasure," and under "Onilley's Strange Dream); I mainly hate the naked picture of Clark and the mixed photos (they freak me out; but I do like "bad" photography in general: overexposed stuff, out of focus stuff, etc.).
This is the only album at the moment I can think of that I would call perfect, even exceptionally perfect. I'm listening to Sgt. Pepper's as I type this, and Happiness is better. Sorry, Beatlemaniacs... someone finally caught up.
"Fan Letter to Michael Jackson" was something that needed to be done. "Introducing Happiness" is great, though I tend not to like it when album titles are the same as a song title. Makes it seem as if that song is the centerpiece or something, more important than it really is. It's hard for a song to hold that weight (even though no one agrees with this theory of album-titling; they call me ultra-stupid).
It was "One More Colour" that really caught me when I first heard the album. I finally caught the Siberry version, and what they did to it was remarkable (hers was a nice song, and this one is like the song tripping out). I cite this as true Rheostuff even though it's one of the few covers.
I didn't like "Claire" as much as the rest of them the first few times, but after hearing the megadose of it on the soundtrack, I came around (perhaps like those who got to hear the megadose of it as a single--I'm guessing; I really don't know how much airplay it got in Canada). The guitar pricklies are great.
"Digital Beach" seems like a nothing little song, but when you listen closely (I suggest headphones), it's really quite involved. Makes your face wince and smile.
"Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds" is unlike anything Bidini has done in the past... or anyone really, that I've heard. I created a thing called Rusty Spell's Fantasia in which I use the video from the Disney film and audio from various folks in my CD collection. Play this song at the very beginning of the "Rite of Spring" section (the one with the dinosaurs and creation of the Earth): It works better than Stravinsky.
"Row" is one of the prettiest songs ever. Appeals to my Mississippi/country nature. The build-up at the end is outstanding.
I was hard on Dave Clark's song from Whale Music, but "Full Moon Over Russia" is just peachy. I'd also like to add that Clarkie is probably the best set drummer there is... either him or me, I'm not sure.
If "Row" is one of the prettiest songs ever, I'd like to offer that "Take Me In Your Hand" is the most beautiful song of all time. The Rheostatics are the only men that can get away with singing the line "make me feel like a little girl" and sound totally masculine. I did a cover of this song in 1997. I let a Rheos fan hear it and she said it was "too slow and boring." It's basically a slowly-pumping version done with fairy sounds on a MIDI. And my Charles Grodin-drone singing.
"Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too" is great. Martin's infatuations: aliens, monkeys, and Christ (see Deer Christ, etc.). I like their piano songs. I like the way the whole thing is time/place-screwed.
My favorite line in "Me and Stupid" is "I jumped down from the bunk where I slept in the room with the fake-look wood and the painting of God." This is one of the many songs from this album that's fun to sing.
Another gun/death song: "Fish Tailin'." "The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos" is another that's fun to sing... and to wonder what that band sounded like.
Okay, if I were making a compilation of Rheostatics songs for people to hear for the first time, I couldn't let "Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry" go by. I've analyzed every little musical tidbit in the song, and have annoyed a few people with that analysis. I won't annoy you here. These reviews aren't very much more than "this is good, this is bad, this is better," if you've noticed. Not my original intent, but just a heck of a lot easier.
"In This Town" is one of the best songs about life... about everything that we expel. Notable things are the little whisperings, the recall of "Digital Beach," the line "from a young boy with a tail into a fish with a b-book or two published," and the fact that DaveB does do a good job of making toy car sounds.
Well, I'm convinced. Alomar is my favorite baseball player. I don't watch baseball. I don't watch hockey. Sue me. The most sports I ever watch is the occasional tennis and golf. Arnold Palmer waved at me once.
"You Are a Treasure": Gotta love the mouth trombone. "Onilley's Strange Dream" was a strange sequel for me, as I heard it first. Put this one in the books as one of the coolest songs in history. This song needs a "making of" film.
Here are some 1995 albums I like: Enya's The Memory of Trees, The Folk Implosion's Take a Look Inside..., The Magnetic Fields' Get Lost, Natalie Merchant's Tigerlily, Radiohead's The Bends, The Rentals' The Return of the Rentals, The 6ths Wasps' Nests, and Rusty Spell's Mailbox. I just thought I'd say that.
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