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SPOOKEY RUBEN (Buy CDs by this artist)
Modes of Transportation Vol. 1 (TVT) 1995

Toronto's Spookey Ruben (a Virginia native who once led a DC thrash band called Transilence) is another of those inexplicable autonomous studio-pop auteurs who crop up every year, armed with the manifold instrumental aptitude of a music school, the vitality of a well-rested basketball forward and enough novel ideas to shame a team of TV writers. A visually oriented sprout from the Brian Wilson/Todd Rundgren/R. Stevie Moore garden of idiosyncratic production pop, Spookey skips merrily through his garishly dressed solo album, strewing evidence of skilled ingenuity and far-ranging imagination without obscuring the sturdy essence of his accessible songwriting. Just as "Welcome to the House of Food" isn't nearly as loopy as the title suggests ("Wendy McDonald," the second of his fast-food hallucinations, is), Modes of Transportation Vol. 1 — recorded with only incidental assistance on a few tracks — is less dense and disorienting than its packaging. Instead, the eminently likable album makes its insidious weirdness a pleasant surprise, whimsical bits that compete gently with Spookey's flexible voice.

[Ira Robbins]