John Vanderslice: Mass Suicide Occult Figurines

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By Eden Miller

John Vanderslice makes music like that goofy guy you knew in college. He may be a fairly competent musician, and he may have something to say, but there’s something about him you just can’t take too seriously. And you’re probably not supposed to. Instead, you’re just supposed to sit back, listen, and have fun.

With self-aware song titles such as “And What Did You Do Today” and the now infamous “Bill Gates Must Die,” John Vanderslice uses his quirky perspective to take on every day people and situations on Mass Suicide Occult Figurines. His humor and sincerity shine through in both his bold vocals and his eclectic approach to music. Everything from simple piano melodies to distorted guitars to inspired drum loops exists comfortably in the same space.

Vanderslice constructs simple, reflective tales of how he views the world. He populates Mass Suicide Occult Figurines with commonplace confusion of modern life. “Everybody’s got screwed up stories / Everybody’s got gruesome details” he sings on “Gruesome Details” before later adding, “It could never justify my life.” In the buoyantly spooky “Ambition,” he sings “Forget about Suzanne, she’s with some other man / Forget about your boy, he’s got a computer,” leading up to the chorus “You need to lose.” His perceptions of the world are fun and inventive, and while they are sometimes mocking, are always filled with understanding.

The variety of styles on Mass Suicide Occult Figurines keeps it interesting, transitioning from straight-forward pop rock on “Confusion Boats” to darkly played violins on the title track. John Vanderslice pulls off each with plenty of confidence and self-consciousness

The songs are relatively short, most of them only a bit over two minutes in length. Vanderslice makes them effective by filling every second, but ultimately, the album only adds up to a bit over a half-hour. What is on Mass Suicide Occult Figurines is worth hearing, but it feels a bit slight and inadequate in the end.

John Vanderslice’s Mass Suicide Occult Figurines is a prominent and compelling listen while remaining grounded in a sense of merriment. He is not only a fresh voice, but an entertaining one.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/vanderslicejohn-mass/