Album Reviews

Album Review: John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves (Upset The Rhythm)

By | Published on Friday 24 June 2011

John Maus

John Maus – pop music philosopher, friend of Ariel Pink, purveyor of the kind of echo-slathered-mutant-Italo destined to annoyingly be lumped in with both the hypnagogic pop and reverb-revival scenes – reminds this listener of Ian Svenonius. The Nation Of Ulysses/Chain & The Gang frontman’s semi-arch/semi-serious musings on pop culture through song seem to strike a chord on this record, Maus’ third full-length for esteemed London indie label Upset The Rhythm.

As an album – and clocking in at a streamlined 32 minutes, one really should be able to find the time to listen to it the whole way through – ‘We Must Become…’ roots itself in an re-imagined past where the original batch of post-punk bands were inspired by Alexander Robotnik rather than Chic; this is bedroom pop based on the dry academic abstractions of Italo Disco Studies. And it’s absolutely marvellous. Maus harnesses the sentimentality of old synthesizers endlessly over resolutely stiff, unfunky drum machine percussion, and vocals buried so low in the mix – and covered in studio dust to further place the listener at a remove – to craft an album of alternate-reality megahits.

Album closer, and highlight, ‘Believer’, marries a kind of taunt, ascending, melodic bassline to those basement dwelling vocals, creating a song that, conceivably, and with a little studio polish, could retrospectively soundtrack euphoric moments from 80s films: characters fistpumping in slow motion, freeze frames and rolling credits. ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves’ is the kind of literate, intelligent, genuinely warped pop music that we want and need. A triumph. JAB.

Physical release: 27 Jun