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Modes of Transportation, Vol. 1

Spookey Ruben

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Album Review

After hearing the fairy-tale introduction, "Terry Magnifica," and the loopy yodeling in the opening minutes of "These Days Are Old," you can't help but recognize Spookey Ruben as eccentricity in its purest form. He also, however, proves himself an undeniably superb and original stylist on this debut long-player. If Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding had continued to explore the most cracked and esoteric terrain of Oranges & Lemons rather than further refining their pop/rock, or if Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith had lightened up considerably during the sessions for Seeds of Love, the results might have approached Modes of Transportation, Vol. 1. The songs range from the bizarre to the childlike to the strangely haunting, all with impeccably crafted pop hooks. There is a guilelessness throughout that is fascinating, especially when it turns dark, as on the lullaby "Crystal Cradle," where Ruben's voice lowers into Morrissey or Dave Gahan range without descending into misery or sounding threatening. Ruben's songcraft is grounded, not accidentally, in the '80s British new wave scene, from its oddly flexible melodies to its angular and brooding tone. Songs like "Welcome to the House of Food" and "Donate Your Heart to a Stranger" are sonically menacing, but the songwriter undercuts the mood with lyrics that are anything but, and a relentlessly buoyant approach. At other times, Ruben breaks up the relative mellowness of songs with sound effects or collage techniques, and the artist's attraction to worldbeat elements ("The Size of You," "It's Not What You Do It's You") only heightens the exotic vibe of the album. It is a relentlessly artistic vision that never comes off as either pretentious or hollow because the naïve and silly qualities of the music play so enticingly off the duskier edges. As inventive as it is, the album perhaps draws a bit too freely from the XTC melodic bag of tricks, and occasionally Ruben's most experimental quirks sabotage his songs. But on the whole, Modes of Transportation, Vol. 1 is a confectionary treat.

Customer Reviews

A true

A true classic for a loyal underground scene. In my top 10 best rock albums ever. Hands down.

such a stand alone album, nothing to compare it to at the time

classic Spookey. Crystal Cradle is one of those bizarre, catchy songs that will never leave your memory. one of a kind.


Born: 1972 in Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A grunge poet recording for the industrial label TVT, Spookey Ruben was born in Ottawa, Ontario, but grew up with a military family in Germany, where he formed his own speed metal bands during his teenage years. He returned to Canada to attend film school for two years, but quit to play in several area bands. Frustrated by their lack of originality, Ruben began recording more pop-oriented material by himself; when one of his demos reached TVT Records, the label signed him. Debut album Modes of Transportation,...
Full Bio
Modes of Transportation, Vol. 1, Spookey Ruben
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