In concert: John Maus at Black Cat

July 6, 2011

John Maus at Black Cat - what is going on here? (All photos by Marlon Correa/TWP)

What's he saying? Is he being serious? Is he okay? Isn't this a Kajagoogoo song? Who told that kid dancing up front that was an acceptable haircut?

But one question comes up more than any other — what's the point?

When Maus performs, as he did Tuesday at the Black Cat's backstage, it's like '80s karaoke night minus the hits — plus a hint of crazy. For 25 minutes the 31-year-old electronic music composer stalked the stage, leaped into the air, pulled his hair and howled along to his pre-recorded music that sounded like the third generation audio cassette dub of a long-forgotten new wave band. The way he shouted, flexed and bulged his eyes you half expected his skin to turn green and for him to transform into The Incredible Maus.


But do over-the-top antics automatically make for a memorable show? That's truly all there was to Maus's performance. Each song was set into motion with the touch of a single button, as easy as going to the fifth floor in an elevator. He composed and created the synth-heavy songs he sang along with. They were fleeting headphone diversions from his new album "We Must Becomes the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves," that carry no extra weight when "performed" live. The words were also indistinguishable, buried in the now-standard layers of reverb and delay favored in the indie underground.

One of the few words that was easily understood was the title of set closer "Believer." It almost seemed like a challenge. Should we take Maus at face value? Or is it all some sort of double-secret-post-ironic-meta performance art?


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