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John Maus' New Album is Neither Pitiable Nor Censored

We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves throbs with '80s synths and crude lyrics

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It is perhaps fitting that a doctoral student of political science would name a record We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. This maxim alludes to a form of politics structured around ensuring that we, the citizenry, discipline ourselves into maintaining a proper social order.

For instance, casual mention of killing cops is generally frowned upon in the public sphere. But go figure: When the phrase "kill all the cops in sight" is sung in a soft baritone over an array of choral synthesizers and smooth beats, it's easy to react with impunity.

The song "Cop Killer" isn't John Maus' only foray into questionable social parameters; his ego-exposing live shows are wrought with erratic flailing, red-faced chest pounding and violent air punching. On "Matter of Fact," he insists over and over again that "pussy is not a matter of fact." He does this on top of music that would be fitting for a 1980s underground horror flick. These dark anthems are classic Maus and fit nicely into the scheme of his record. However, it is the songs where he takes himself seriously that truly make this a worthy album. On "Hey Moon," Maus duets with Molly Nilsson, their voices drenched in nocturnal reverb atop delicate synth lines and minimalist beats. On "Believer," Maus invokes former bandmate Ariel Pink with echo-laden vocals that drift in and out of a thumping sheen of glossy low-fi effects. "Quantum Leap" sees Maus laying down a rigid bass line beneath frantic synths and dance-inducing drum beats.

To the uninitiated listener, Maus' '80s throwback vibe, layered synths, simplistic beats and amoral lyrics might seem a tad crude. But in the world of Maus, anything goes.

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