Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Maus- We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (2011) / Love Is Real (2007) MP3 & FLAC

"And this is the time to gather at tables aloud with memory of our lost play
and silent pageantry."

A brief glance through some of the critical reviews of John Maus' three albums, and it becomes clear that he is a polarizing figure, inspiring either condescension or adulation with very few reviews falling in between. While some describe the music as featureless or derivative, others characterize Maus' sound as opening new vistas of possibility in pop music. In actuality, Maus embraces a gloomy, Lo-Fi aesthetic, which is largely constructed with vintage analogue synthesizers; however, he is not shy about introducing conventional pop elements into the mix, but does so in a way that refuses the glossy seductions and easy resolutions that straightforward pop deals in. On his second LP, Love Is Real, Maus approximates the overly bright yet wafer thin sound of eighties synth-pop but strips it of all its clarity by throwing it down a well of hazy reverb and by using his sometimes clumsy and often exaggerated doom-filled Ian Curtis croon to lend the songs a dark, claustrophobic feel. For example, on "Love Letters from Hell," a cheap drum machine and strangely funereal synth-based organ effect conspire to create a context for Maus' Dubby Post-Punk vocals that is equal parts Vangelis, Joy Division, and Lee Perry. While Maus' third album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, does not stray far from its predecessor in terms of inspiration, it does demonstrate greater sonic depth, superior song-writing, and a slightly better drum machine. "...And the Rain" offers an interesting study in Maus' method; taking the most banal elements of cheesy eighties synth-pop, burying them in layers of foggy reverb, and juxtaposing them to his throaty vocals dripping with both sentimentality and irony, Maus approximates what Stephin Merritt might have sounded like fronting B-Movie in 1983. Nevertheless, there are moments on We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves where Maus transcends his deconstuctive retro-mode and points the way toward something new and intriguing. "Believer," the album's lead single, is one of these moments. Sounding a bit more produced than the rest of the album, the song's refracted Gregorian chant-style vocals provide an epic sense of depth, making Maus' stream of consciousness lyrics sound like echoes of something profound, and the procession of indelible hooks makes "Believer" easily the most memorable track on the album. Maus' music may not be as transformational as he wants it to be or, perhaps, as we want it to be, but given half a chance, it becomes clear that he is mining some interesting musical territory here.

We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves 
(Upset! The Rhythm ~ 2011)

 1. Streetlight  (2:53)
 2. Quantum Leap  (2:53)
 3. ...And the Rain  (2:47)
 4. Hey Moon  (4:09)
 5. Keep Pushing On  (3:34)
 6. The Crucifix  (1:16)
 7. Head for the Country  (3:17)
 8. Cop Killer  (2:42)
 9. Matter of Fact  (2:17)
10. We Can Breakthrough  (2:08)
11. Believer  (4:05)

Love Is Real  
(Upset! The Rhythm ~ 2007)

 1. Heaven Is Real  (4:16)
 2. Do Your Best  (2:47)
 3. Rights for Gays  (2:38)
 4. Love Letters from Hell  (2:59)
 5. Silent Chorus  (5:00)
 6. Navy Seals  (2:17)
 7. Pure Rockets  (3:22)
 8. My Whole World's Coming Apart  (3:43)
 9. Don't Worship the Devil  (3:44)
10. Tenebrae  (5:19)
11. Too Much Money  (3:24)
12. Green Bouzard  (1:00)
13. Old Town  (2:00)
14. Times Is Weird  (3:42)



  1. i am thoroughly enjoying this. thanks so much for turning me on to him. love love love it!

  2. ana, you're welcome. I appreciate the comment

  3. This is very, very weird and strange... but I like it!
    I get the feeling that, under all these synths and drum machines, there lies something very vicious...

  4. Dave, that's an interesting way to put it. I agree. Evidently that viciousness comes out in his live performances, which are said to be quite manic

  5. The description alone sold me. Now I just need to listen to it.

  6. Jeff, it's very interesting stuff. I've been listening to this a lot lately.

  7. Thanks Voixautre for this (and all your posts). Two fantastic albums and a major new find for me this year. I guess Ariel Pink's keys man had to be good, but I'd say virtually every track is good on both these album, and equally standout. It's like 80s new wave refracted through the mind of Jame Gumb (that sinister undertone reminds me of Silence of the Lambs somehow!) The songwriting is strong, and the murky synth arpeggios go just where your body wants them to! I'd love to hear his third album soon.

  8. Melmoth, (love the Maturin novel BTW), Maus is one of my favorite discoveries of 2011. I loved your description; I should have asked you to write the review :)

  9. That's okay, thought it was time to say thanks and convince others these are definitely not low-key releases (albeit lo-fi keys releases...sorry), ultimately due to the strong songs. Will be a favourite of the year (as was Ariel Pink's last year) along with the similarly-muddied bliss of the Belong record.

    Yes the book is a great gothic romp, would love to re-read it one day. If you do run out of time for the odd review feel free to ask (yours are very good btw and convey real enthusiasm for the music, not just a critical analysis).

  10. Melmoth, thanks again for the great comments and I'll definitely keep you in mind if I ever need someone to fill in on the review writing


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