Re-Listen: John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

There seem to be many bands as of late that are trying to find their own new and individual sound by imitating that of bands that are now long past. Foxygen and Tame Impala are two prime examples with their psych-rock revival sounds. These albums are great but both seem to be focusing too much on their own inspirations and not really moving the genre forward apart from bringing it to the 21st century. I mean, Foxygen’s new album was called We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Hey Moon

John Maus’ excellent 2011 album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves doesn’t just hark back to bands such as Joy Division or New Order but also feels fresh and unique. Using the old to create something new. With the layering of synths and Maus’ baritone but distant voice he truly creates his own sound, something that is especially difficult now that almost everyone is creating music and posting it on the internet.

Heart to heart

Mind to mind

We are the ones who seem to travel through time

Quantum Leap

The album title, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, is ironic in a sense because that is exactly what he doesn’t do. There is no censorship here and this most likely refers to the thematic elements of the album. John Maus studied political philosophy and his own theories certainly seem to come across here. The record gives off a feeling of oppression, it’s dark and it seems like you are doing something wrong by listening to it. This feeling and the mention of self-censorship brings to mind the Big Brother society of today or the dystopia of George Orwell’s 1984. The line ‘this is where a human being finds itself’ in Head For The Country reminds me of the moment in 1984 where Winston and Julia begin a love affair and by that break the norms of their society by meeting in the country.

Head For The Country

John Maus has mentioned in the past that he may proceed toward the ‘truth’ of pop music through the use of harmonies arising from church modes. This album certainly feels ethereal especially on the song We Can Breakthrough where he layers his own voice to appear like that of a church choir. Interestingly this continues into the last track Believer. It is almost as if John Maus has taken us on a trip, conditioned us and finally broken us into his utopian beliefs and fears. In a similar fashion Winston is broken and converted at the end of 1984.


Maybe John Maus is trying to warn us about the way society is starting to or has already become, everything is online, and everyone is being watched. Maybe we need John Maus to convert us to be truly saved. Either that or just go live in a lighthouse, your choice.



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