Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Emerald City  
  John Vanderslice  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

According to the press release, John Vanderslice wrote the bulk of Emerald City after his French girlfriend's visa application was rejected by US Immigration, thus fuelling the album with insecurity and paranoia. Now I wouldn't say that all this is immediately apparent, but there is a certain tension and uneasiness about this collection, which on initial listens is easy to label as being the work of yet another artist who has been listening to the Arcade Fire. There's more to Vanderslice than that, however, as further listens also reveal altogether older influences such as the Beach Boys and 10cc.

Kookaburra opens proceedings in something of a low key manner, though it builds nicely in an Arcade Fire kinda way. It's a promising start, but things really step up with Time To Go with its acoustic guitars and stomping beat. The Parade is even better if anything, though. It's another acoustic number, with a really gorgeous melody and tasty backing vocals and some lovely tinkling on the piano. There's also a section in the middle where Vanderslice's vocals start to sound like those of Kevin Godley, the 10cc drummer who always had something of a pure quality about his voice.

White Dove, meanwhile, opens with a thumping beat, before the vocals come in augmented by some discordant Sonic Youth-like guitars. And although it's strong in the melody and harmony departments once again, this is definitely one of the numbers with a tense undercurrent as is Tablespoon Of Codeine, which sounds like a Sheet Music-era 10cc track that has been remixed by Four Tet.

The Tower, with its wailing chorus, is another where the Arcade Fire come to mind, whilst The Minaret is a track that Spin magazine apparently called "the ultimate anti-war song for today". Although this latter track isn't one of my personal favourites, it's an interesting number with a doomy piano intro that has shades of Joy Division's Closer soon giving way to vocals that are strangely reminiscent of Robert Palmer. I should perhaps add that this would be a Robert Palmer in his more experimental Clues phase than his Addicted To Love one.

Numbered Lithograph follows with its discordant acoustic guitars and a memorable chorus, whilst Central Booking finds a defeated sounding Vanderslice singing "it looks like the CIS have won once again" over another doomy piano riff. The Hospital is another uncomfortable sounding number, with Vanderslice telling us that the "summer is never going to happen". Then, Emerald City closes with Mother Of All Dead Time Factories, which again sounds like Robert Palmer, but this time singing over what sounds at times like a Pet Sounds-like backing track.

Vanderslice is clearly a talented guy, and not just musically either as he can clearly spin a yarn, too. After all, this is a man who once said he had bought a 16 track recording deck having seen an advert placed in a magazine by a "Brian", only to turn up at the sellers house to meet "a grizzled, heavily drugged" Brian Wilson who was "was completely out of it -- not exactly slurring his words, but not lucid". Vanderslice later phoned the reporter, however, to say although the item in question once belonged to The Beach Boys, he had, in fact, made the story up!

So not just clever. He's got a conscience, too. Worth investigating.

Related Links:

Label Site:
Artsit Website:  
Artist MySpace:
Also on EvilSponge:
     Concert: Sun.9.Mar.03


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.