'WE MUST BECOME THE PITILESS CENSORS OF OURSELVES'
UTR049 | CD / LP | 11 tracks, 32 mins | Buy
Third album 'We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves' breaks new ground for Maus. The shirt pulling and air punching of his impassioned live performance is finally captured in all its frenzied appeal alongside a tender inner space. After stretching muscles with opener "Streetlight", arpeggiators bubble up to new levels with "Quantum Leap", a song full of dead zones, glancing slaps and oscillating solos.
"Heart to heart, mind to mind, we are the ones who seem to travel through time," intones Maus resolutely through the mist. John's lyrics are as likely to touch upon themes of Cronenberg gore just as much as the musings of Jacques Rancière. It's this no-brow approach that makes things interesting, casting Maus as a savant and allowing his music to startle us in ways whereby we open up to the unimaginable.
John's preoccupation with truth, love and eternity are perfectly suited to this treatment as seen with "And The Rain" and the softly cascading "Keep Pushing On". The songs are devastatingly catchy, saturated with keyboards and overflowing with Maus' allegorical summons. The hypnotic fugue "We Can Break Through" treads new territories into minimalism for Maus, seeing the phrase "Break through this" repeated almost like a mind control procedure scored by Bach and Suicide.
'Pitiless Censors' as an album displays a more delicate touch than its predecessors. "Hey Moon" is John's first duet, performed with Molly Nilsson, who originally wrote the song. It's a serene elegy that subtly weaves an impression of nocturnal loneliness and romantic dreams.
Closing track "Believer" is equally evocative with its bells, choral soaring and echoing sentiment. Of course, a John Maus album wouldn't be a John Maus album without the same anthemic genius and dark humour that we've seen previously with songs like "Maniac" and "Rights For Gays" and this new album finds its succour in "Cop Killer". The eerie waltz-time offspring of Body Count's controversial 90s protest track, it is dystopian, bleak and ridiculous and, in short, classic Maus.
Unlike the last two albums, 'Pitiless Censors' looks towards the future in all its absurdity. It's a record where promise takes the lead for the first time, providing a counterpoint to John's default existential calling. The cover of "Pitiless Censors" depicts an airbrushed lighthouse, thrashed by wave after wave, bringing to mind Beckett's quote "Unfathomable mind: now beacon, now sea."
The everyday realm where our lives seem both familiar and equally strange is where John Maus resides. His surreal touch is disarming, opening our eyes to the reality outside the four walls. Perhaps we're all like "the human being who finds himself in the locker" in "Head For The Country" in that, if we surprise ourselves and open the door, we can let the light in despite the storm.