John Maus: Screen Memories (Ribbon Music) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #62 - Julien Baker

Screen Memories

Ribbon Music

Oct 26, 2017 John Maus Bookmark and Share

If the test of time is the only true measure of an album’s worth then John Maus‘s We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves is close to being a classic. In the six years that have passed since it was met with unanimous acclaim, the record’s synthesized enclaves feel as alive and energized as they did in 2011.

Of course, this puts the Minnesota-based musician’s fourth LP Screen Memories in a slightly awkward spot. How do you surpass something that feels so current? Fittingly, Maus hasn’t tried. Instead he re-mines a familiar sonic aesthetic and focuses on channeling the inner tensions that runs through us all.

Opener “The Combine” sets the stall amidst a backdrop of bewitching keys and programmed drums, over which Maus icily prophesizes “I see the combine coming/It’s going to dust us all to nothing.” It doesn’t get more optimistic from here: “Touchdown” could score a homicide in any dank inner city alleyway, while “Walls of Silence” is a stony cathedral of synthesizer and reverb.

Despite such bleakness, there are numerous bursts of pace. Angular post-punk shapes shift through “Find Out” and “The People Are Missing” as they race into marauding keyboard frenzies. The Ariel Pink-written closer “Bombs Away” is even more charged, with Maus asking “do you want to feel electric?” over a glorious, pounding bass line.

Surprisingly, it’s in more contemplative moments that Screen Memories falls over. “Edge of Forever” seems set for Maus to blow up the song’s cold, chasmal plod. It never comes. Much limper is album nadir “Teenage Witch,” which meanders through two minutes of charmless noodling without ever really leaving a mark.

With the world a darker, scarier place than ever this could have been a triumph for Maus. Yet, what he’s created is a sometimes brilliant, sometimes meek recording that lacks the purpose and poise of its predecessor. Sadly, time won’t be as kind as it once was. (

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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