Fingertips Flashback: John Vanderslice(from August 2003)

Back when there used to be an “all-time” Fingertips Top 10, “Me and My 424” was on it, near the top. When I came across this song in the summer of 2003 was when I first figured that maybe I was onto something, looking for high-quality free and legal music.

[from “This Week’s Finds,” Aug. 10-16, 2003]

“Me and My 424”- John Vanderslice

So it begins with this jaunty little piano line, the kind of vampy thing that most guys would work for at least eight measures, maybe even 12. Not Vanderslice; this talented indie rocker doesn’t even fully repeat the line once before he brings in an tweaky sort of electric guitar tone as a one-note counterpoint; and then, on the next repeat, in comes an unexpected, mournful string melody descending on top. Geez, the song grips you before he’s even opened his mouth. And when he does, he hooks you all the more with his reedy, early-’70s-Bowie-but-American voice. And don’t get me started on the queer but compelling way he breaks the title melodically so it sounds more like “And my 424, me/And my 424…” The song comes near the beginning of a concept album Vanderslice released last year called The Life and Death of an American Fourtracker, which is all about a young man rather too fond of home recording. (The 424 in question is a Tascam 424, a multitrack cassette recorder commonly used by musicians with home studios, at least before digital recording began to take over.)

ADDENDUM: Vanderslice has of course been writing and recording regularly since 2003. His most recent album is 2009’s excellent Romanian Names. Visit his web site for lots of information and a goodly number of free and legal MP3s.

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