My Top 20 Songs of 2011 #19: John Maus – ‘Believer’

Flick briefly through any review of John Maus’ third album ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves’ and it feels like you’ve been dropped into a wet-dream for Pseuds’ Corner. These are the actual words used in one of the reviews:

In academia, pop enigma John Maus comes up in discussion about where hauntology meets ‘utopian theory’, an area of scholarly pursuit wherein blog intelligentsia will discuss John Maus’ much vetted ‘heaven’, and not strictly in hypothetical terms. Read enough of the stuff and you detect a quite strange inference that this nirvana actually exists – in your ‘perception is reality’, post-structuralist type way… such ideology represents the very purest expression of post-irony in music”.

Well, I detect the whiff of a beret-sporting, Foucault-reading* uber-twat, passing off a wank in a dressing gown as a post-structuralist event. This was one of a number of reviews for which the description “post-irony” was apt.

What I do know about John Maus: he is working on a PhD in political philosophy and he has collaborated with Ariel Pink & Animal Collective, thus “discovering the joys of pop” (presumably distinctly wonky pop – I don’t think they’re listening to One Direction). All this is in his bio.

Now, for all I know John Maus may well be a genius of political philosophy. He may be as brilliant as Hegel, Kant, Marx, and Nietzsche combined (though if he’s a post-structuralist he’s almost certainly not). What the bio forgets to mention is that he also writes absolutely spellbindingly brilliant synth-pop. This really should be on the front page in bold letters, underlined in red crayon. It would encourage more people to sit up and take notice, because for all the wanky mumbo-jumbo surrounding him, this is fantastic ethereal pop music.

‘Believer’ is a marvellous pop song. It’s gloriously lugubrious, with a behemoth of a hook at its core. It sounds like it’s been recorded onto a cassette from the radio, which should be pretentious and superannuated, but somehow comes across as evocative and quixotic. It’s an absolute gem of a song.

Lesson for the day: don’t throw the sparkling pop song out with the spunky bath water.

*For the record, I think that Michel Foucault is a wanker who has contributed just as much to the destruction of the goals of the Enlightenment as Deepak Chopra, George W. Bush, a bunch of religious fundamentalists, Milton Friedman, Tony Blair or Jeremy Clarkson. Y’know, just in case you thought I was intellectual-bashing for the sake of it. I’m not James Delingpole.

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