John Maus - A Collection Of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material
Rarity collections are either completely avoidable or filled with lost gems you can't believe the band didn't release in the first place. Often only recommended for obsessed fans and ruthless completists, for most of us, what was previously buried, should've probably stayed where it was. How many good songs can a band possibly produce without releasing them? In John Maus's case the answer is apparently 16 over an eleven year period. Luckily, all these songs are now contained in one release, ,A collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material! Well there is the occasional boring song here, 2010's 'Angel of the Night' springs to mind, but there is nothing extraordinarily bad here.
Yet, this isn't a perfect release. Firstly there's no classic song unearthed here. There's no previously unreleased song that 'true' John Maus fans can hail as his greatest ever work. This is probably because he has, sensibly, already released his best work. 'North Star', 'The Law' (with its piecing introduction) and 'The Fear' are all very good songs, but they are far from being classics. The rest of the material on the release is fairly nondescript. This sounds like a big criticism but it doesn't have to be. Even the best albums can't be filled to the brim with choons. A good artist can produce an album track that fails to completely floor the listener but yet manages not to bore and can provide something interesting. John Maus is very capable of this. There isn't really a point during the 45 minutes of the album that I found myself bored and wanting to skip to the next track.
Secondly it's disappointingly clear from this release how little John Maus has changed over ten years. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Maus, with his booming voice and bright synth work has a particularly distinctive sound. He doesn't especially need to find a new sound because he's managed to do a lot of different interesting and exciting things without changing much. In part this makes him easily distinguishable, the listener is always going to know a Maus track. Additionally it's difficult to begrudge the man for not changing a winning formula. However, with the album not presenting the tracks in any sort of chronological sense it is impossible to get a idea of how Maus has changed over the years. I cannot distinguish an early era track from his more recent releases. This limits the need for a release like this partially. Often rarity albums show a band evolving over the years and can be used to hear a lot of different eras of sound in a short time. This however is only a collection of songs and cannot be praised for that reason.
I would not recommended this album to anybody not acquainted with John Maus already. That is not to say this doesn't have it's merits. For those looking for 'fresh' (read unheard) material from Maus you can't exactly go wrong with this. We have 16 very strong songs here and this is a testament to the creativity and talent of John Maus.