John Maus sounds like Joy Division if they spent more time playing Castlevania and less time trying to get laid. His first since 2011’s We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, (a huge favorite in the Lab office, s/o our downstairs neighbors at Domino) has a cynical, apocalyptic paranoia running through its DNA, immediately evident on diabolic opener “The Combine.” Maus’ explanation for the huge lapse since Pitiless Censors is that he set out to build his own synthesizer, soldering components and learning the ins and outs of analog circuitry. The project was ultimately a big waste of time: “It didn’t really make that much of a difference sonically.” Thankfully, not much has changed since Pitiless Censors in terms of sound design, and Screen Memories is comprised of the same brilliant formula: meticulously programmed baroque synth arpeggios, post-punk bass, LinnDrum beats and Maus’ own gruff howl (although a welcome bit of guitar pops up on “Find Out”). On each of his studio albums, Maus offers a thesis statement that is so disarmingly blunt and simple that it rattles around in your head for weeks. On Love Is Real it was “rights for gays, oh yeah”; on Pitiless Censors, it was “cop killer, let’s kill the cops tonight.” This time around, Maus addresses the futility in everything by curtly proclaiming “your pets are gonna die.” For a guy who’s known to ramble for hours about political philosophy (seriously, do a Youtube search) and spent the better part of the past 6 years writing a 300 page dissertation, Maus is surprisingly concise in his music, often repeating a single refrain over and over until the song ends. “Teenage Witch” exemplifies this to stirring effect; easily one of the most infectious tracks of the year (file this under 2017 songs we love about witches alongside Rosenberg’s “Kitchen Witch”). The LP closes with a chilling cover of Holy Shit (Ariel Pink & Matt Fishbeck)'s “Bombs Away.” Recommended.
- 180g black vinyl pressing
- printed inner sleeve
- digital download included
- music label: Ribbon Music 2017
reviewed by Yung Pilot Astray 11/2017