Review: John Maus | We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

by Eliza C. Thompson

Electronic musician/composer John Maus, known for his manic, frantic live performances, brings the party to your home stereo on We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon Music), his third studio album. If that sounds like a complicated title for a dance record, chalk it up to Maus’ impressive education. He’s a professor of political philosophy and theory and is working toward a PhD in political science. His background might have some influence on his pensive lyrics, but they’re so drenched in reverb that they probably won’t interrupt your thoughts while you groove. On “Head for the Country,” he repeats the mysterious line “This is a where a human being finds itself” over a distractingly catchy synth line that makes it difficult to care about deciphering his vocal musings. Fans of Ariel Pink (who has collaborated with Maus) will recognize this distorted, synth-heavy ’80s style, but Maus takes his compositions to slightly more experimental places. “Quantum Leap” sounds like a straightforward pop song for most of its two minutes, but towards the end bursts into a strange mix of electronic sounds. Maus knows his pop, though. The wistful duet “Hey Moon” would fit right in alongside Tears for Fears on a John Hughes prom soundtrack. The 1980s trend is a little bit done to death, but Maus knows enough about his craft to keep it interesting, whether you’re slow dancing or straight up busting a move.  

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