John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves (Upset The Rhythm)
by Scott Creney
The new John Maus album is pleasant enough. Don’t let the intensity of the title fool you. John is a more modest sort of Maus. The video sure is pretty to look at though.
It’s not all that bad to listen to either. WMBTPCOO sounds like a softer Joy Division, with all of the raging desperation replaced by a vague discomfort. Maus even sings in a deep-throated baritone, intoning doomily like a slurred and yawning Ian Curtis, trapped in a cave and falling asleep.
It’s a chillwave take on 80s synthpop, but every song sounds analog & natural. I’m having a hard time disliking this. Keyboard fills that sound like running water. Synths that sound icy & warm at the same time. Which sounds a little like trying to kick heroin, except that John Maus isn’t nearly as addictive.
And it’s hard to slam it for being derivative when it sounds — in its looking backwards for inspiration, its use of modern technology, its reluctance to say what it wants — very much like life in the 21st Century. At least there is something squirming underneath, struggling to be heard, the possibility of something extraordinary. Maybe if we keep listening long enough, it will eventually emerge.
And if it’s hard to make out the lyrics, maybe that’s for the best. Especially considering one song’s chorus goes, “The rain comes down … down, down, down”. Although it at least shows that Maus’s songs, despite their spaciness, are firmly set here on Earth, with all its attendant laws of gravity. This guy isn’t a PhD student for nothing.
It’s the kind of bleary inoffensive nonsense that would probably drive Wallace Wylie to tears. Me, I just shrug a little and go back to washing the dishes.
Either way, it’s better than that Bon Iver album you went out and bought last week. I give it a solid 7 ½ vintage moogs out of however many vintage moogs you want to put after the number 7 ½.