more sundancing
issue no.
  january 15
c o n t e n t s
RED Reviews
'Torque' Runs Out of Gas, Explodes, Cuts to T&A
Opening this Weekend

It's a Wonderful Ken: RED Locates Cool-Lookin' Ken Just in Time for the Holidays

RED Reviews
by Brent Sallay

Cellar Door
John Vanderslice
(of 5)

So I guess the typical John Vanderslice release usually comes with a misleading press package full of lies like “Microsoft is trying to sue me for putting this out” (referring to Mass Suicide Occult Figurines’ “Bill Gates Must Die”) or “look at me—I’m a time traveler!” (for Time Travel is Lonely) or “look at me—I’m a four-tracker!” (for The Life and Death of an American Four-Tracker—well, I guess that one was true).

I don’t know. I didn’t get a press kit. All I have is the music on the album to go on. But I am pretty proud of myself because, well, I think I was still able to figure it out. (Please hold your applause until the end of the review.)

But first, for the uninitiated, John Vanderslice used to be in the band MK Ultra, one of the better bands you probably haven’t heard of. But when it split up back in 1999, he followed the path trod by Sting, Björk, Cher and Limahl—going solo—only he kept his full name (because who wants to listen to a band called John?). Always celebrated for his frank and clever lyrics, Vanderslice sounds less like Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) than Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) and even more than, oh, let’s say, Limahl (Kajagoogoo).

But so what’s this Cellar Door all about, you’re asking? My first clue was the album’s title. As anyone who’s seen “Donnie Darko” (only like, the third-best movie of all time) knows, “cellar door” is the most beautiful combination of words in the English language. Hmmm. But then “Promising Actress” can’t stop singing about “Mulholland Drive” (another great 2001 release). And “When It Hits My Blood” seems pretty eerily reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s drug-addled masterpiece, “Requiem for a Dream.” It seems to me that Vanderslice has broken out his time machine once more, with his sights set on the Tower Theatre, circa fall 2001. Want more proof? Well, that’s pretty much all I’ve got. But bear in mind, I don’t get out much. Some of these songs might be about “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or “Blue Crush” and I wouldn’t know it.

What I can say is this: John Vanderslice, whatever his intentions, has churned out yet another solid batch of slightly twisted four-track indie pop that ought to appeal to anyone discerning enough to be reading RED Magazine.

Different Cars and Trains EP
The Notwist
(of 5)

A lot of publications are putting The Notwist’s Neon Golden on their year-end lists for 2003, which is a place it would certainly belong, right up at the top, were it not for the fact that next month, the album will already be two years old. (Though granted, it did see U.S. release last February.)

So what little goodies do the good folks at Domino have in store for those (like me) who have been patiently waiting for an equally inspired follow-up? How about a 30-minute EP of remixes by Console, Loopspool, Four Tet and Manitoba? Um, is that all you got? Well, uh, OK, but you’d better be working on something new.

Billing two of the tracks as Console remixes is a bit like billing The Joshua Tree as U2 featuring the Edge—he’s already a member of the band. And who’s this Loopspool fellow, you ask? Well, he does the electronics for the Tied & Tickled Trio, just one of the Notwist’s Markus and Micah Acher’s many, many side projects. (It would take a two-course class just to keep up with all of them.)

So besides the relatively uneventful, previously unreleased ambient track “Red Room,” the only real leap out of the semi-incestuous German electro-pool is with the Four Tet and Manitoba remix of “This Room.”

If you’ve read our year-end feature on the best albums of the past year, I shouldn’t have to tell you that Four Tet (Kieran Hebden) and Manitoba (Dan Snaith) are already putting out some of the best music of our day, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this track is the highlight of the EP. (Though Hebden seems to be the one in the driver’s seat here.)

Still, I am perhaps being a bit harsh on the rest of the EP. It makes for an enjoyable listen and varies enough from the original versions of the songs to merit release.

In short, Different Cars and Trains is probably all it ever purported to be—a rewarding listen for the already weathered fan, but by no means a great introduction to what I’m just going to go ahead and call one of the top 20 bands currently recording music.



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