Music » Livewire

John Vanderslice

With the Reputation and the Six Parts Seven. Thursday, April 8, at the Beachland Ballroom


These days, with the rapidly proliferating miracles of modern technology, it's more or less child's play to craft whatever exotic sounds you want to fill your records. With a little clever programming, practically anyone can add a lavish string section or countrified pedal steel to their latest techno-tinged skittery-skee masterpiece, complete with distorted tonalities galore.

Few know this better than San Francisco's John Vanderslice, who as chief knob-twiddler at Tiny Telephone Recording has helped countless artists realize their sonic potential. Being so intimately involved with the lovably scruffy lo-fi scene, Vanderslice has a good sense of the forms that indie rock can take. He shares in the glib musical vocabulary of bands like They Might Be Giants and Neutral Milk Hotel, where wholly original melodic hooks jostle for ear space with odd engineering mixes and inscrutable lyrical content. His impressionistic ditties aren't as scattershot or frivolous as those of many contemporary bands; while he seems unwilling to embrace the sugary simplicity of boy-meets-girl romantic pop, Vanderslice also doesn't fall back on the opaque, Dadaist word jumbles that are too frequently the genre's undoing. Although his lyrics are difficult to track from start to finish, they actually seem to be about something -- vague philosophic melancholies, romantic and societal abandonment, and the joys of holing up in a basement studio to create something personal and rebelliously beautiful.

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