John Vanderslice


The most excellent song on John Vanderslice's excellent new album, Life and Death of an American Fourtracker, may just be the best love song written to a machine since Neil Young's "Long May You Run." Propelled by a slinky-cool keyboard riff, "Me and My 424" offers up such witty techhead observations about TASCAM's integrated cassette multitrack recorder/mixer as "it's not really four tracks/you can add and you can subtract." Smart and melodic, the songs on Life and Death of an American Fourtracker--Vanderslice's fourth album since 2000's Mass Suicide Occult Figurines, which included the classic "Bill Gates Must Die"--combine power-pop catchiness with insightful lyrics ("I was a quiet, lunchbox lonely little boy" he says in his ode to an antidepressent, "Amitriptyline") and lots of spacey musical effects. From the techno-farmyard, pedal-steel-flavored weirdness of "Interlude 4" to his remarkable musical adaptation of William Blake's "Fiend in a Cloud"--which, against all odds, does not come off sounding like a sorryass example of English-major pretentiousness--every one of Vanderslice's damn-fool tricks succeeds. And he makes it look as if he isn't even trying, especially on "The Mansion," a tale of misbegotten romance with a great horn-driven chorus that ends with the narrator throwing his girlfriend's possessions from the balcony of their 17th-floor hotel room. But there is one problem with that track--what the hell does he mean when he says the couple comes from "Anacostia, Va."? John Vanderslice plays with Picastro at 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the Black Cat's Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $5. (202) 667-7960. (Michael Little)

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