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Mass Suicide Occult Figurines

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Album Review

Having caused a minor media sensation when he claimed he was being sued and generally bullied by Microsoft for the track "Bill Gates Must Die," only to later reveal that the whole story was only a prank, John Vanderslice's solo debut is a surprisingly accessible and coherent album. For someone who apparently derives pleasure from pulling Andy Kauffman-esque tricks on the media, he is a dead serious songwriting talent. Coming off a critically acclaimed run with former band mates MK Ultra, he retains some of their more hard-edged rock elements, as on the muscularly dreamy "Speed Lab" and the punchy "And What Did You Do Today." Similarly, the big bruising guitars of "Bill Gates Must Die" drive lyrics that are surprisingly free of attack on the multi-billionaire, instead telling the story of a man whose life is ruined by his obsessive internet use. In the end, however, it's Vanderslice's imaginative melodic sense that makes Mass Suicide Occult Figurines a rare type of album. The gliding atmospherics and beautifully disjointed pop arrangement of "Ambition" balanced with the simple piano and acoustic guitar-based "Josie Anderson" deliver more than a few well-produced and well-textured pop moments, though never becoming overly or awkwardly grandiose. Having once claimed that Brian Wilson sold him a 16-track recorder, Vanderslice masterfully employs multi-layered harmonies and touches of tasteful strings in "Gruesome Details" and "Foothills of My Mind" in ways not dissimilar from that of the troubled pop genius. While his lyricism may be somewhat strange, it certainly isn't indecipherable, just as his pop dynamics are consistently adventurous but never unfocused. While John Vanderslice's shrewd media hoax may be largely responsible for putting him in the news, his rare musical gifts are what will keep him there.

Biography

Born: May 22, 1967 in Gainesville, FL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Raised in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland, indie rock innovator John Vanderslice grew up listening to a mix of Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Kinks, and Southern rock, which instilled an eclectic musical vocabulary that informed his own songwriting. Forced into piano lessons as a child, he eventually picked up the guitar in the eighth grade and formed several bands during his teen years. His songwriting added influences from David Bowie, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, King Crimson, XTC,...
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Mass Suicide Occult Figurines, John Vanderslice
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