JOHN MOUSE – The death of John Mouse
aaamusic | On 20, Aug 2014
Absent of irony, John Mouse’s fourth record is a crash course into the misconceived simplicity of songwriting utilising the bare necessities. And while the Baloo references end at Mouse’s hospitable demeanour, the reliance on rudimental nostalgia and clumsily integrated banter, clips the wings of what is potentially a great insight into the everyman’s songwriter.
Opening track and unofficial World Cup anthem ‘I Was A Goalkeeper’ is rooted in a sentiment of distancing relationships. Nuances of pop-punk lace the without-frills rock formula that Mouse adopts on the majority of the record. And it’s not as if Death of John Mouse shoots for cut throat edginess or integration into Shoreditch DJ sets, in fact there’s something admirable about how unaware the music seems to be of current trend. However, cuts like ‘Two Blokes from Abba’ showcase how far a little ambition goes when Mouse veers off from the blog-rock tones. Chaotic dynamics and piercing spoken word traces closer to punk than all the off-licence quips Mouse can muster in 33 minutes of music.
And this seems to stir confusion. While a hallmark of great punk is honesty, it shouldn’t be considered a mutually constitutive affair. Typical throwbacks to stiff-lipped Eton punk Frank Turner arise when considering an artist of this ilk however honesty can also manifest in the most fragile of souls like Mark Kozelek or Elliott Smith. Point being that despite John Mouse’s most candid and sharp sentiments, it doesn’t distract from a lot of these songs being fitting soundtracks for a family BBQ, not a tooth and nail bar scrap; take sing-song and strung together ‘Funny Little Ways’ if you don’t believe me.
Not to say that the candour exhumed is to any detriment, in fact I found Mouse’s character the most redeeming quality of the record. A unique sensibility tears out of the four chorded cage on tracks like ‘That’s Just the Way Our Love Is’ or through the melancholic baritone on ‘I’m Waiting For Your Girl’ which, despite the obvious Velvet Underground parody, excuses the jarring Scott Mills and Championship League remarks with undeniable heart.
Animating himself as the skag trendy Jarvis Cocker on ‘Robbie Savage’, Mouse dives deeper than before tapping into some darker territory comparable to say Arab Strap. Lamenting string sections that crescendo into a turbulent array of clenched feelings sees Death as a whole flipped on it’s head after a luke-warm first half. On tracks like ‘Ilka Moor’, distorted vocals and piston armed guitars make an appearance permeating an urgency that juxtaposes the cheeky-chappy aesthetic peppering the earlier tracks.
Closing number ‘Once Upon A Time in Ynysmaer’, the surprising first appearance of the acoustic, dedicates a full minute to dictating dinner menus and while the female harmonies and choral accompaniment are a refreshing involvement, it’s a disheartening reminder of what cripples the record and surpasses John Mouse’s gravitating persona; a case of substituting substance for quirk.