Music

John Maus' Gleefully Absurd 'Addendum'

Photo: Shawn Brackbill / Courtesy of Domino Records

Synthpop auteur John Maus follows 2017's Screen Memories with a collection of songs that are unique and occasionally maddening in their uncharacteristic silliness.

Addendum
John Maus

Ribbon Music

20 April 2018

John Maus is an intense man. Anyone who has seen Maus perform live can attest to this, but his recordings express that intensity in more subtle ways. Unlike his former collaborator Ariel Pink, Maus rarely (if ever) displays a goofy side, preferring instead to maintain a facade of unbreakable sincerity. Addendum undoes all of that in a very, very short time. Billed as a companion piece to the particularly dour and sincere Screen Memories, Addendum is essentially the polar opposite of its predecessor and of just about the entirety of Maus' catalog up until this point. Here, Maus cuts loose in a seeming attempt to deflate the stoic, intellectual image he created for himself with a collection of oddball sketches and half-songs whose disposability appears to be an act of defiance.

Most of Addendum is built around absurd one-liners meant to elicit either laughter or confusion, depending on who happens to be listening. Opener "Outer Space" meanders until it circles back to its chorus, which proclaims that, "they don't know shit about outer space". Then, we get "Dumpster Baby", which is -- somehow -- both nothing like what you were expecting and exactly what you would expect all at once.

Quite often, the songs on Addendum are structured like mantras, with Maus repeating a turn of phrase or a single word over and over, forcing the listener to meditate on what he means by honing in on this single idea. "1987", for example, repeats its title with ever-increasing anger until one starts to wonder if Maus has sincerely gone over the deep end. Unlike previous releases from Maus, though, this technique feels more like an absurdist prank than anything else. Maus could be trying to confront the strange variances of existence, but it's just as likely that he's fucking with the listener, as well. Either way, it's something markedly different from him.

Or he could be phoning it in; it's hard to tell. To some, Addendum will read as a sloppy record of cast-off recordings. Even the name of the album implies something less than, a post-script to a larger body of work. The songs here tend to amble into the ether, coming and going without much of a care about making an impression. That they do is a testament to Maus' talent, but most of Addendum is as defiantly unsubstantial musically as it is lyrically. It's a baffling move from an admittedly unpredictable artist, but Addendum remains a strange and occasionally frustrating album, even for an artist as doggedly individualistic as Maus.

Even if Addendum is a throwaway record, it's the sort of throwaway record that is far, far better than it has any right to be. In a way, Addendum works as a sort of de-mythologizing of John Maus as a performer. His persona is one built around both intense feeling and doctorate-level studiousness, and while it was a unique idea to couple with lo-fi synthpop, it's the sort of self-conception that could have become suffocating over time. Rather than let that image consume him whole, Maus has instead provided some evidence that, yes, he can have a little bit of fun when he feels like it.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.

Music

Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.

Music

Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.