2000 release, cheap and lovely "No really, she's laughing with you... With all the sneaky charm of a car commercial that leaves you inexplicably in tears, this latest romp from People Like Us serves up the emotional complexity of, say, the complete works of Proust, crammed into bite-sized snacks for the easily distracted. In some sense Vicki Bennett's work could be seen as companion volumes to Neil Postman's incisive mid-eighties critique "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business". Her assemblages of found samples and oddball artifacts, punctuated by peculiarly catchy little synthpop interludes, are populated with all the random and irrelevant crap with which most of us are bombarded daily, skillfully crafted into preposterously pointless exchanges and easy-listening jingles which slyly undermine the intention and substance of their original forms. Bennett has an uncanny ability to transform the trivial, ephemeral, boring and banal into deliciously naughty indictments of our media-saturated culture. In this her work is not unique; artists like Negativeland explore similar territory, and it could even be said that mockery and pastiche, as hallmarks of the post-modern, have become something of a staple gesture.
What is truly singular and surprising about her work, given its penchant for deconstruction, is simply its overwhelming gentleness towards its subjects. Never smugly clever or bitter, Bennett's real human warmth manifests in the strangest places, moving what would otherwise be searing sarcasm towards a genuinely fun and good-natured laugh at ourselves and our collective predicament. Ultimately it is her kindness that gives her work both its distinctiveness and its effectiveness: while her commerical Muzak jingles at times lead you to believe you are being lulled into a bludgeoning, her manipulations and surreal juxtapositions are never cruel, offering instead an uplifting glimpse into the possibilities of meaningful communication within (or despite) a sea of chitchat, of real emotion inside the sentimental, and ultimately of an ennobling critical method which is engaged, insightful and diabolically effective without being condescending or overly self-absorbed.
"Thermos Explorer", her ninth solo album, is my favorite PLU to date. Each listening finds me singing along and grinning like an idiot. Why is listening to this so much fun? It's like having a sleepover with your hilarious best friend, where everything they say makes you giggle—behind all the music is the irresistably sweet Vicki Bennett, and you just can't help but like her. "