Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
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)