Rustic Overtones - Viva Nueva (Cover Artwork)

Rustic Overtones

Viva Nueva (2001)

Tommy Boy

I'm guessing a lot of you don't know this band, and thats a damn shame. Rustic is a band from Maine, and two of the bandmembers graduated from my high school. They have been playing around the Portland area for years, playing a blend of ska, rock, funk, soul, punk and jazz. There major label debut on Tommy Boy is both a joy and a dissapointment. With their first few LP's and EP's, Rustic embraced ska much more bravely. At the time, it was cool to have a horn section and upbeats, and while Rustic was not purely a ska band, they fit in pretty well with the ska scene. On their final indie release, "Rooms By The Hour", the band explored a more diverse array of sounds, including punk and soul, styles that had traditionally taken a minor role in the Rustic sound. Their debut for Tommy Boy Records further breaks down musical boundries, with nary a hint of the old frantic ska-influenced sound. Thats not to say that "Viva Nueva" sucks. Im all for innovation. There are many songs on here that deserve to be in the winner catagory. The lead single, "C'mon" is a great, traditional Rustic tune, with vocalist Dave Gutter's signiture howl, the bands amazingly skilled horn section and some great keys courtesy of keyboard player Spencer Albee. Other great songs include the other-worldly "Gas on Skin", "Sector Z" which features David Bowie on backing vocals (Bowie also appears on the tune "Man Without a Mouth"), and remakes of old Rustic songs like "Check" and "Hardest Way Possible". There is a song on here for almost every taste, whether it be slow and jazzy like "Baby Blue" or ominous and dark like "Valentines Day Massacre". Rustic manages to hit every base, and there are few clunkers on this disc. So really, this disc is hit or miss. Honestly, it is bizarre to see Rustic fratenizing with the likes of Imogen Heap and Funkmaster Flex, which they do on this disc. I have had people tell me that they pine for the Rustic sound of old, when they were playing ska-rock at high school dances. Others have said that this new sound is where the band should be anyway. One could debate forever, so I say, don't waste your time debating, and go buy a CD by one of Maine's best bands. Recommended if you like: Fishbone, old Hoobastank, David Bowie, Mighty Mighty Bosstones.