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Life & Death of an American Fourtracker

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Take one engineer-singer-songwriter of vision, depth, and appeal, grappling with the great ontological and epistemological questions of post-modernism and the Enlightenment. Add Sloppy Hi-FiT, rhythm, melody, diverse instrumentation, a compelling storyline, and extra lyrics from cult punk-folk hero John Darnielle (Mountain Goats, Extra Glenns). Bring far-flung indie rocker friends together from bands like Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie , Beulah, Mates of State, Kind of Like Spitting, and the Court and Spark, and trust these musicians to do what they know best. What do you get? John Vanderslice's third solo (yet collaborative) concept album, a satirical rocker about an American artist "gone crackers" and "washed up" by 19. These are 12 songs about muses, metaphysics, drugs, four-trackers, and suicide. Vanderslice named his first album after a Neutral Milk Hotel lyric; this time out, fans of the enigmatic should look for references to Marcel Duchamp, the Microphones, the Danielson Famile, Yes, and William Blake, whose poetry on the pain of existence is used as a framing device. --Jillian Steinberger
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 7, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Barsuk
  • ASIN: B000066AMZ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,639 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By George a Pletz on July 16, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Vanderslice is one of the more exciting fixtures of the increasingly obvious indie scene. Striking a stance between guitars and synths, hi and lo-fi, and directness and obtuseness, Life and Death is engaging series of songs centering on the trials and tribulations of a washed up four-tracker.
In my opinion, this is a step down from the completely sublime Time Travel is Lonely. The ratio of great songs to just ok songs
is defintely slanted towards the latter. But compared to other albums in the neo-singer/songwriter mold, it is a substantial work.
My problem with the album is the trivial instrumental interludes, 4# & 5# and minor tracks like the John Darnielle co-written Nikki oh Nikki which sandbag much of the album's forward motion. Not awful just seem more like exercises than songs. These instances make this more of an album I have to be in the mood to hear than mandatory daily listening.
This said songs like "Underneath The Leaves", "The Mansion", and "Amitriptyline" envelop the listener in their prog rock flecked Pavement/Elephant 6 informed indie pop and deliver both catchiness and content. (I just have to also mention "Me and My 424", a great statement of purpose on par with Eno's The True Wheel.) Anyone who can adapt Blake to music (Fiend in a Cloud) without looking pretentious or foolish deserves all the attention they can get.
I would just suggest "Time Travel is Lonely" as a better starting point for the novice listener. The songs supporting its central concept are just stronger.
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Format: Audio CD
While admitedly, John Vanderslice's second album, "Time Travel is Lonely" is his best release, Life and Death of an American Fourtracker is by no means small potatoes. In fact, while it may be somewhat inferior to J.V.'s 2001 release, it is still far more superior to many, many other albums.
Again, as with "Time Travel" J.V. gives us another concept album. When I first listened to it, something reminded me of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps the mix of guitar and synth. I wasn't really sure, but it has a similar feel. When I finally learned the "story" behind the album (the true tale a young artist's - who once dated John's sister - descent into maddness) the similarity to "The Wall" became even stronger. Like other "concept albums" this release works more as a whole rather than as individual songs. Its hard to pick out that stand out "radio hit" (even if its a college radio hit) type single. The album works as a single unit, flowing together as a cohesive whole to tell the complicated story.
I truly believe that John Vanderslice is probably one of the best song writers and performers out there. Seeing him live made my life. And self-absorbed? I think not. He has a reputation for being one of the nicest rockers out there. If you've ever seen him live you would know what an amazing down to earth guy he is. I'm anxiously awaiting his most recent release due this winter.....
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Format: Audio CD
John Vanderslice originally came to me via a good friend. This CD has turned my good friend into my best friend. This album is stark yet gushes with emotion. It measures up well against Mr. Vanderslice's previous releases. Though the album is not a masterpiece, it is quite consistent. It receives four stars only so we may anticipate an even better release next time. Highly recommended tracks include: Cool Purple Mist, Me and My 424, Underneath the Leaves and Amitriptyline.
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Format: Audio CD
I've listened to this record about 400 times and it stands up in every way to last year's brilliant "time travel." great lyrics, amazing recording, a must have for anyone interested in credible indie music. RIYL: flaming lips, wilco, beulah, radiohead.
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Format: Audio CD
I've listened to this record about 400 times already. it stands up as well as last year's fantastic "time travel is lonely," mr vanderslice's previous record. this guy is going to end up a cult hero.
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