John Vanderslice - Emerald City
Album Review

John Vanderslice – Emerald City

Anyone who not only believes Bill Gates Must Die, but puts out a massive record to back it up is someone you’re bound to pay attention to. And so when the same person releases a new album, it’s not hard to find yourself paying extra careful attention.

That’s the main problem with bring outspoken; people expect you to back it up – just ask The Beatles and Jesus.

But on Emerald City, John Vanderslice simply reinforces his position as one of the most exciting of a new generation of American songwriters.

The album reminds me of reading Rock Falls, by Richard Ford, a great, but underrated writer. The stories are simple, the premise of each story even simpler, but the writing rings with truth.

Like Ford, Vanderslice uses an eloquent prosaic style to capture the mood of his thoughts. And whether it’s an American soldier taking control of a Minaret, after having cut down an Iraqi village’s women, or the neurotic codeine addict being stalked by a journalist in a Chevy Impala (when all he wants to do is survive the night without the drugs), he weaves a spellbinding web of words and music.

Time to Go would likely be the track to attract a populist radio audience with it’s driving rhythm, and emphatic chorus.

But it’s in his quieter, quirkier…let’s be honest…his pure fucking dark moments that the whole package really comes to the fore.

And that’s no more evident than on Tablespoon of Codeine: the story of a person hounded by the press and by his or her own addiction. It’s not simply a ponderous story in a collection of tales railing against US policies; the invasion of Iraq in particular – I get the feeling this is the song and the sentiment that the rest of the album hangs on to.

With piano chords stripped back so far as to be nearly obscene (without the minor chord change it’s touch and go), it’s a mesmerising look into an idea that most of the characters in this grim fairy tale relate to.

If you like music with a healthy dose of escapism give this one a miss.

If you rate music that pushes boundaries as well as buttons, this is will be one of the best buys you make this year.

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