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John Maus - Songs [Upset the Rhythm - 2006]

This is one odd puppy of an album, I can’t think I’ve heard something quite so odd and off kilter in a long time, and that’s saying a lot. Guess best way to try and describe the album is: take one large spoon of odd 80’s synth soundtrack music, one spoonful of a gone to seed and slightly mad 60/70’s lounge singer, a little sprinkle of 80’s pop, and to finish off a little tang of “when did they let him out and I hope he doesn’t live near me”.

The innocent and just a little bit tacky church organ led first track called Opening doesn’t prepare you for what’s about to hit you round the head with ‘what the hell’. It’s Time To Die is the first proper track, it ties rubberband-like bass, to a whining keyboard melody, drifting along like a strange dream, with a odd mix of punky/ crooning singing; it just whips round and round your head. “It’s time die and everybody knows. it time to die” is sung over and over, then all of a sudden it drops into an emotional musical interlude from a 70’s cartoon, then it just stops. Very strange. Why did you sing to me is 60’s singing from inside a cardboard box echochamber, over strummed guitar in another room, giving frankly a very creepy, odd vibe. Just wait till next year, makes a great lo-fi popsong tinged with 80’s vibe, and some very odd lyrics like “I cut of my fingers just to touch you” and “I want to put my fingers inside you”.

Let's Talk Action marries cheap horror soundtrack music (maybe something from really low grade 80’s slasher film) and bang and bang beats, along with spooky vocals, intoning: “take off your shoes, take off your pants”. It Takes Time is full with crude, odd humour over it’s humble lo fi pop heart, like the chorus “oh my grandma has peed her pants again”. So again, you wonder quite how to take it all, which is the great thing about the album. Its odd charms are always putting you off balance. The album drifts off, with the odd melancholy and comforting And Heaven Turned Her To A Weeping, with wonderfully ambient pop keyboards and mournful singing, like watching a car disappear off in the distant down a long straight road, a beautiful ending really.

This year really seems to be shaping up early with great releases, so with out doubt one for fans of The Residents, Frank Zappa in his more pop moments, but Maus has very much his own odd twist on pop.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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