John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 12.23.11 in Reviews
Updating gothic ’80s synth-pop for an alternate universe

If Ariel Pink was the godfather of chillwave, his CalArts pal John Maus must be its eccentric uncle. Only instead of, say, scratch-building model trains, this scholarly small-town Minnesotan updates gothic ’80s synth-pop for an alternate universe where Ultravox outsold Michael Jackson. With booming vocals, exaggeratedly artificial shimmer, and medieval melodic touches, Maus’s first widely distributed album packs enough deranged karaoke fodder to render its world hyper-real. His cold-blooded delivery (“Quantum Leap,” “Cop Killer”) makes it hard to tell whether this should be terrifying or hilarious. On gorgeously uplifting finale “Believer,” it’s simply inspiring.