John Maus - Addendum

by Justin Pearson Rating:6 Release Date:2018-05-18
John Maus - Addendum
John Maus - Addendum

On the heels of 2017's Screen Memories, Synth-pop artist John Maus returns with Addendum, an album that is being released alone, but will be included in a career-spanning box set. The tracks on Addendum are culled from the Screen Memories sessions, hence the album title.

But aside from that fact, the album actually does feel like an add-on, or somewhat of an afterthought. The songs are supposedly more spontaneous, and instead of taking a new creative turn, or even matching the more polished sheen of Screen Memories, they feel unfinished and uninspired at times. Maus' deadpan delivery of often serious material is still here, but melodies sometimes feel hurried and clipped off before they have a chance to really take hold.

The beat on 'Figured It Out' could draw comparisons to 'Maneater' by Hall & Oates, but where that song's drive had a steady direction the galloping looseness on this track makes for a dizzying, confusing experience. 'Running Man' is in a similar vein. The fast beat matches its title and repeated refrain "I am I am a running man", but there's really nothing else anchoring it; there's no foundation. 'Middle Ages' also seems to meander without really doing much, even though it starts out promising.

There are some flashes of classic Maus, though, that make the album still worth a listen. On 'Privacy', lyrics like "headphones on tightly", "happy alone" and "no one can know me" further expand on the repeating word "privacy" in the background. Clearly a song about self-imposed alienation in the age of smartphones and personal devices, it's not only relevant, but its ominous synth lines highlight the content perfectly.

'1987' is also dark, but even more so. Its brooding bass line underlines bright synths while Maus intones almost robotically "Nine teen eighty seven, Nine teen...eighty seven, AK-47", giving each pronounced letter and syllable considerable weight.

Album opener 'Outer Space' sounds like it could have been on 2011's excellent We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. It has the same retro/futuristic sound that made that album a stand out. The blunt, humorous lyrics remind the listener that wealth and fashion don't equal smarts and cosmic interest, but rather a dullness that's all too common: "Mr. Money Bags, Mr. Brand New shoes...they don't know shit about Outer Space." Coming from the mouth of a musician/philosopher makes it all the more true.

Addendum isn't a bad album, but following something like Screen Memories, it pales a bit. It does its job of showing a musician in the middle of a creative process, which certainly justifies it being released. If you're already a fan of John Maus, it's one you should check out. If you're a newbie, though, it's probably best to dig into his more notable work.

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