Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year.
There’s an overtly stern feel to the album as he expertly recreates the squelches and sombre electronic sounds of the era, but thanks to similarly austere conditions in the world economy of today it retains a contemporary feel. As unemployment rises, famine ravages Africa and the wealthiest take the cream off of the world economy the comparisons between then and now are pertinent.
On this his third solo album he reveals himself as one of the foremost practitioners of the synth pop genre. It is no wonder that he and Ariel Pink found so much in common.
Even though those that get some respectful nods include Joy Division and Gary Numan, along with more obscure music of the time such as the Kraut rock of Die Krupp, it’s not all bleak, grey urban landscapes. There’s some Ariel Pink style uplifting moments as well, particularly on, the practically jaunty for Maus track, ‘Head for the Country’.
It is this track and the bleeps and squelchs on others that lead us to confidently predict that if you liked Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti’s 2010 album Before Today then this will appeal to you.
Maus’s vocals fit the mood well, even if he does sound disconcertingly like crazed dress making transvestite Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. It almost sounds like he’s taking the mickey a little, even though we are given to understand he is extremely serious about his music.
Take ‘Quantum Leap’ for example, with its bass intro and gradual building up of keyboards. His Buffalo Bill voice jars a little at first, but once you realise its genuine the sound of this fictional killer fits perfectly in the retro soundscape Maus has created.
Another highlight, on an album without a single duff track, is ‘Cop Killer’, which could have come straight off a mid ’80s science fiction movie soundtrack.
Wonderous stuff from Maus, even if it is as bleak as hell.
by Joe Lepper