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Album Review: John Maus - A Collection Of Rarities & Previously Unreleased Material

17 July 2012 | 5:22 pm | Brendan Telford

A Collection… proves that, like most previously unreleased offerings, there will be prime cuts and there will be offal. Above all else, it proves that Maus is a pop genius – when he so chooses.

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The growing fascination with Minnesota's John Maus is emblematic of the current zeitgeist of washed-out synthesised pop. At its core, Maus' music is about melodrama and cathartic release. This culminated in the critical success of last year's We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, backed by his bizarre self-flagellating live performances. Such tortured passion doesn't always commit to tape, which dampens some of the impact of the demos inherent on this collection of tracks. Yet it is an interesting sojourn through the history of this engaging yet enigmatic artist.

Arcing over 11 years (from 2010 reworkings to Fish With Broken Dreams, which comes from his earliest demos from 1999) and seemingly void of any thematic or aesthetic connection, these 16 tracks are an abstract listen that nonetheless showcase a propensity for creating superior pop that eludes many of his contemporaries, albeit ones that are oft-buried beneath nervous tics, darkly garish lyrics and copious latherings of quirk. No Title (Molly) may be his most approachable track from his entire oeuvre, a case study in interweaving hooks and pulse so that there's no long room for lulls. There are others of this ilk – the immediacy of Bennington and the breezy nuance of The Law come to mind – yet for every classic, there are warped duds such as Lost, true throwaway tracks that should have stayed tucked at the back of the bottom drawer.

A Collection… proves that, like most previously unreleased offerings, there will be prime cuts and there will be offal. Above all else, it proves that Maus is a pop genius – when he so chooses.