One day everyone you know someday will die. But before then, you owe it to you and everyone you know to catch John Maus live and in his essence – a roaring talisman of human force. A classmate of Ariel Pink at CalArts sometime around the turn of the millennium and an early member of his Haunted Graffiti revue, Maus has since made an extensive career on his own that consists, currently, of four full-lengths, the latest is last year’s Screen Memories, out on Domino’s Ribbon Music imprint. They are all quality, gothy synth fun: the work of a musical experimenter energetically probing at subjects as curiously diverse as urinating grandmothers, gay rights, and the realization that your pets will die.
On the live stage, in this case somewhere in Bushwick, Maus turns these subjects into transcendental oaths and delivers them in the cant of a pulpiting Romanian dictator and an energetic one-man scremo band all at once. His presence, in some way, obliterates the music. There is no dissonance between his voice and the chords being played on a nearby synthesizer or those of his bassist. Instead there is alienation; his presence, a howling wo-wo-wo that appears nowhere or rarely in his recorded discography, spongily absorbs every sound. Pink might be the godfather of chillwave and its accordant generation of pop made in confined bedrooms, but Maus is one of contemporary indie’s most vital performers. You watch Maus and you wonder what Kevin Parker is doing – an awkward cheshire cat behind mammoth riffs. Music festivals full of bad jackets. Maus slays them off the court like the best and most notable thing since James Brown. Goth rock? Maus could awaken the dead.