Monday, 18 July 2011

John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves ( a review)

I first heard of John Maus when browsing through videos I came across his clip for "The Believer". I instantly fell in love with that song, I loved the retro sound of the pulsating synthesisers, the silly sound effects, the sweet melodies, the faded vocals and generally the way he managed to re-create the charm of the early 80s. So I checked the guy out, found his entry on myspace, where he included only the worst reviews of his 2 albums, let me quote the most hilarious ones: "The first couple of tracks make this the most skip-able album of 2006" or "If it is supposed to be funny, it is not. If it is meant seriousy, then Maus needs some SERIOUS help." What a sense of humour, I thought, and while waiting for his new album to come out I occupied myself with listening to his previous work. To my great surprise the albums did not sound like "The Believer" at all. The albums bore high resemblance to very early recordings of my absolutely beloved "The Legendary Pink Dots" from the early 1980s, particularly to those collected on their Legendary Pink Box album. I was in the state of shock that anyone can model their music on these records, which most people discard as rubbish (well, I love these early works cause they are so lovey fresh, so full of ferment, but I admit this is a challenge for those with better musical hearing than me).

So I got the new album bearing such an intelligent title "We must become the pitiless censors of ourselves", which became my motto for a couple of days. I must say that the album is both a step ahead towards catchy hit songs, kept in the early 80s mood,  like "The Believer" and simultaneously faithful to the old pinkdotsy style. All the 11 songs  are clever pastiches of synth-pop hits of the dark wave of 80s, intelligently arranged, combining keyboards, drum machines, unemotional muted vocals and the seeming disability to play a musical instrument (heh, if I didn't know he actually studied music and played keyboards for Ariel Pink I would definitely believe him to be a sort of naive musician, who thinks the idea is more important than the performance and skill).

The album opens with a lovely display of moonlight synth electronics in Streetlight.

Quantum Leap  and ...And the rain, again, compare with early Legendary Pink Dots, or early French synth bands like Partie 1 or a bunch of others you can hear on  BIPPP, French Synth Wave compilation album and probably a thousand other bands of the epoch I'm not familiar with.

In case of Hey Moon, infantile lyrics, which I kind of like cause this song seems a joke to me with the slow tempo, bells tingling, and the silly rhymes:
and your pale round face
makes me feel at home in any place i happen to be
at a quarter past three
I haven't heard anything so bad in years and paradoxically I enjoy it. A lot.

Ballads are intermingled with some more dynamic compostions. All in all what we get is 11 songs which provide a little less than 40 minutes of nice retro-electronic music. I know I like this album mainly for sentimental reasons and I do realise it would be hard to persuade anyone that this is a milestone for music, yet if you like synth sound of the very early '80s you'll take pleasure in listening to John Maus' We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.

And I'm a convert, I'm a believer

Telephone lines all across the world
People fight all across the world
Angels sing all across the world
Baby, you and me all across the world
Jackie Chan flashing all across the world
Hulk Hogan flashing all across the world
Baby, let's go fly all across the world
They call me the believer

I AM the pitiless censor of myself

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