Album Review: Mister Goblin – ‘Four People in an Elevator and One of Them is the Devil’

Posted: by The Editor

Devil, the 2010 film directed by John Erick Dowdle and written by M, Night Shyamalan follows a group of people stuck in an elevator together, including a security guard, a mechanic and former soldier, a mattress salesman, a young woman, and an elderly woman. Throughout the film, we learn one of these people is the devil, causing them to accuse and turn on each other. It explores how people behave in a crisis, and how quickly we turn on each other. It’s not a very good movie. Sam Woodring will tell you as much. His new album as Mister Goblin, Four People in an Elevator, and One of Them is the Devil is a concept album loosely built around the movie’s themes. 

In “Hook in the Eye” Woodring casts himself as the devil, or just someone wickedly deceitful. With lyrics about deceiving the elderly, and manipulating emotions over the phone, it’s certainly an evocative track lyrically. However, those lyrics feel obfuscated by the instrumentation and intensely catchy vocal melody. It’s the first moment on the record with an absolute ripper of a chorus, and it makes those devious ideas seem more sinister by how appealing it makes them.

The record’s lead single “Six Flags America” takes a much softer approach, and paints a portrait of American yearning and disappointment. Its narrator isn’t someone suckering an innocent soul, but may well be the one who’s been played. Joined by Sadie Dupuis on vocals, Woodring sings of wanting to go to Six Flags – he even has season tickets – but through no fault of their own, our striving protagonists never get to go. The emotive acoustic guitar licks that act as the song’s foundation rise and fall ever so slightly, perhaps to be the rollercoaster promised but never attained. 

“Cover Song” sits in the records back half, but is in the running for the best showcase here of Woodring’s writing chops. The track touches on the impermanence of life, and the futility of making art. Its main frustration deals with making music on such a small scale that it feels like a waste, because “hey, couldn’t I just cover something everyone knows?” As it comes to a climax, Woodring sings in a round – one layer is him listing off classics like “Blackbird” and “Freebird”, and the other just the line “so you can sing along / if you know the words.” The record isn’t exactly lacking for moments that make the listener reflect on feeling defeated, but this is the track that puts a finer point on it. Musically the track is pretty simple but feels propulsive in its melody, the weight behind its words pushing it forward. 

Four People in an Elevator, and One of Them is the Devil is a record emphasizing how much darkness lives within every person and everything, regardless of whether they’re the embodiment of ultimate evil. From the people like the narrator of “Hook in the Eye” who act badly while they work, to the existential dread diffused throughout each track. For a concept record, it plays with its theme enough to make it resonate, but not so much the music suffers from being put under too much strain. It makes for a piece of work that, whether you’re looking for catchy rock songs, contemplative slow numbers, or just something to make you think, ultimately delivers.

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great /Phenomenal

Eric Bennett | @seething_coast

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