Music

John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

An excellent third outing from John Maus that doesn't skimp on the synths, courtesy of everybody's favorite philosophy professor.


John Maus

We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

Label: Ribbon Music/Upset the Rhythm
US Release Date: 2011-06-28
UK Release Date: 2011-06-27
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Like pal Ariel Pink's Before Today, John Maus' We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves is steeped in '80's magic. Unlike Before Today, Maus' third release is less moody, more consistent in its sense of oddness and intrigue. We Must Become... is also consistent in that nearly every track manages to top what came before it. The awkward disco of opener "Streetlights" sounds like the catchiest song in ages, only to be replaced by the electronic freak-out that introduces "Quantum Leap" slightly less than three minutes later. The album maintains its charm up until the blissful conclusion.

We Must Become... is glutted in synths. At first listen, they dress the songs in too many ridiculous baubles, but each listen uncovers more and more legitimacy. Maus, after all, is quite a ways from your average bonehead rocker. While Maus does not exactly flaunt his political philosophy degree or his PhD (in political science) aspirations, the mood his music creates may lead to a bend in reality; not only are the songs deviantly catchy, they are also dangerously easy to get lost in. "Head for the Country" displays both Maus' provocative lyrics and the immersive quality of his synthesizers. The song opens with some prime '80s pop slickness before Maus intones, "This is where human being finds itself in the locker." Whether the listener chooses to ponder that for the song's length, or instead gives themselves over to the synthesizers, both poisons leave a satisfying aftertaste. Even more ponderable is the statement repeated throughout "Matter of Fact", a modern day proverb that is best left for the listener to discover.

Even with so much synth wrapping, We Must Become... still packs its share of naked surprises. "Hey Moon" marks Maus' first duet, his partner being the song's writer, Molly Nilsson. If that weren't enough, the song also sounds closely related to the Magnetic Fields in both charm and lovesickness. "...and the rain", on the other hand, sounds just as ominous as the title may suggest, while album closer "Believer" rivals Pink's "Round and Round" in terms of uplift.

But We Must Become... waits to deliver its heaviest blow until eight songs in. A waltz rhythm and an onslaught of archaic synths drug the listener, Maus' doomy monotone delivers the punch. "Cop killer / Let's kill the cops tonight / Kill them / Cop killer / Kill every cop in sight" goes the aptly titled "Cop Killer". Despite all its darkness its potency is hypnotic; but beyond that it is brilliant, less political than the song of the same name by Ice-T's controversial Body Count, and more a requiem for that song's aftermath.

To draw an Ariel Pink comparison yet again, as Before Today provided a breakthrough for Pink last year, We Must Become... could very well do the same for Maus. The songs are clearly strong enough, and the ongoing '80's revival trend shows few signs of stopping. Maus may not be tempermental enough to ascend to Pink's state of indie popularity, but if he at least makes a showing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, that alone will confirm that real artists can still get their much-deserved prime time.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


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.