ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 16, 1998
By Steve Newton
Some things are best done quickly, like a shooter of tequila or a U-turn in front of the cop shop. Or a Rusty album, for that matter. While the Toronto guitar-rockers’ previous CD, Sophomoric, took six weeks to complete, their new one, Out of Their Heads, was recorded and mixed in six days. That’s movin’.
“Our first album was done in that fashion, too,” says guitarist Scott McCullough, calling from T.O., “and people tend to like the first one and this one better than they like Sophomoric, which is a little more polished, perhaps. I would think it usually boils down to the songs themselves, but there is something to be said for that kind of ragged, off-the-floor feeling. It gives a bit of life to a record.”
The speedy creation of Out of Their Heads wasn’t the only throwback to Rusty’s acclaimed 1995 debut, Fluke. On its new disc the band resurrects the early single “Punk”, this time as the McCullough-crooned “Country Punk”. The revamped version was actually supposed to be a duet, but Ken MacNeil’s vocal track was mistakenly cut from the mix. It’s still a pretty cool two minutes of expletive-laden boogie-punk.
“We’d always had a slightly different version of that song which we used to amuse ourselves with in sound checks,” reports McCullough. “Then when we were in the studio we had just enough time to record it, so we kinda dashed it off—which was the way the original song was recorded, too. ‘Punk’ was not supposed to be on the first EP, but we had a 20-minute window to get it in, and our producer Chris Wardman was like, ‘Well, we have 20 extra minutes, so if you want to do the song really badly, that’s how much time you have.’ So we whipped it off, and it ended up bein’ sold to a Hollywood movie. They actually paid us well for it, too, which was a fine thing.”
“Punk” wound up as the background music to David Spade and Chris Farley’s stolen-cop-car shenanigans in Black Sheep. The band’s other connection to the movie biz is a track on the Hard Core Logo soundtrack CD, “Let’s Break Robert Out of Jail”, with lyrics by Vancouver author Michael Turner.
Although McCullough admits he’s “not the biggest Bruce MacDonald fan in the world”, he did enjoy Hard Core Logo, and thought it was a fairly accurate representation of life in a touring Canuck rock band. His own group isn’t nearly as dysfunctional as that flick’s titular outfit, though.
“We don’t fight as much as those guys,” he reveals. “We’re like one of those weird bands that gets along. I’ve been in bands that were a little bit more strife-torn than our present unit, anyway.”
Things were a tad more confrontational in McCullough’s previous band, the Doughboys, which he started with John Kastner in 1986, then departed from a year later. He seems to have found a harmonious home in Rusty, though, which also includes vocalist MacNeil, bassist Jim Moore, and drummer John “Fatboy” Lalley.
The foursome—which plays the Palladium on Friday (April 17)—certainly comes off as a tight garage-rock unit on the ’60s-tinged Out of Their Heads. And if that title sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a takeoff on the Rolling Stones’ Out of Our Heads. Rusty even planned to mimic that ’65 LP with a copycat cover photo taken by Chris Wahl.
“If you check the Stones’ album, we mimicked the photograph and the graphic and everything. I’m playing Keith, Ken’s in the back where Mick is, and of course we dropped one member—Brian Jones, I think. We tried to copy it, then someone decided that it wasn’t such a good cover after all, so we relegated it to the flip side at the last minute.”
The ’60s theme of Out of Their Heads is driven home by covers of tunes by the Kinks and the Velvet Underground. The band had been listening to the Kinks’ “Till the End of the Day” to try to pick up on the ’60s recording sound; as for the VU’s “Sunday Morning”, McCullough just thought its time had come.
“Everyone’s covered a lotta those first-album songs,” he says, referring to 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, “but no one does ‘Sunday Morning’, so I thought we’d give it a stab. But Ken wasn’t familiar with it, so I ended up having to sing it. Not being quite the singer that he is, it’s a little bit different, but…whatever. The out-of-key parts were left in.”