August 03, 2003

Rusty Santos "Bad is Good"

Bad is Good, the debut album by New York's Rusty Santos, could easily slip under a few cracks. His quirky songwriting could easily fall under the whole "anti-folk" genre that was popular for a few minutes two years ago. Problem is, he's funnier than Moldy Peaches, and is generally better than most of that scene. He could also fall under the indie-rock heading, considering his quite obvious debt to Pavement. He also owes much to both electronica and indie-pop, at times sounding like the long-lost cousin of A Boy Named Thor. Throw in the fact that his music comes off as rather weird, and you could easily place him aside Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston and Devendra Banhart, and no one would ever be the wiser.

Still, there's much more to Santos than mere imitation. He's a lo-fi kinda guy with a keen sense of humor and an even sharper way with words. Bad is Good plays all of those cards, and even though he doesn't play them all in the right manner, there's a great deal of promise on this debut. When dealing with this kind of sound--this weird, quirky and offbeat music--it takes a little time for artists to hit their niche. Santos has a ton of great ideas--the beats of "dalai lama," the hilarity of "Demon," and the weirdness of "Cleptonic"--but these ideas seem to be three among many. Like many debuts, Santos is playing around with many styles, to varying effect.

Bad is Good is good and that's good as in good not bad. With a little more focus and a whole lot of the unnamed factor that makes this record pleasant, Santos will find a style that's all his own, and all of the obvious inspirations won't be so obvious. Bad is Good's main strength is the hint and allure of the future. You'll hear goodness here, but when that second or third album comes out, you'll more than likely be utterly impressed. Personally, I can't wait, because we're dealing with someone who has a lot of potential. Though not fully satisfying, Bad is Good is a promising start.

--Joseph Kyle

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