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Dick Stusso makes darkness delightful on ‘Garbagedump #1’

A man with a beard and long hair looks directly at the camera with a dark background behind him and a single light shining overhead.
Hardly Art Records

The flow of new music is constant and occasionally overwhelming. On First Listen helps you (and us) keep up by sharing our initial reactions to the latest releases.

Dick Stusso is the alter ego of Oakland musician Nic Russo, whose shambolic cabaret rock style made waves a few years back when he first came on the scene, evoking classic faves like T. Rex, Harry Nilsson and beyond. Russo just announced his first album in nearly five years, S.P., which will arrive March 24 and include the recently released single “Garbagedump #1.”

In true form, the song chronicles Russo’s other self, who — as he explained to Brooklyn Vegan — is transitioning from beautiful loser to something darker. “The character is becoming unlikable. He’s succumbing to what is taking place around him.” He’s also realizing that he’s been had:

This could be heaven 
Or it could be hell 
Sometimes I think I know 
Sometimes I can't tell

Completed before the pandemic, Russo decided to let the songs for S.P. percolate: “I took my time and let these songs get as strange as they could be.” Contributing to the strangeness by arranging the horns for “Garbagedump #1” was a very qualified individual: his father, Marc Russo, a Grammy-winning saxophonist and longtime member of the Doobie Brothers.

The track’s slow shuffle really draws you in, but it’s the killer horns, weird storyline and staggering vocals — complete with the human percussion of coughs and kissy sounds — that make you stay. Listen to it here, and watch for more strangeness from Dick Stusso’s new album this March.

88Nine Music Director | Radio Milwaukee