Sunday, April 13, 2008

John Maus & Soiled Mattress and the Springs from Upset the Rhythm

It's an encouraging feeling when good friends get involved interesting artistsic endeavors. It's even cooler when those interesting endeavors wind up yielding something quite good. And, let's say, when said friends wind up releasing some really impressive records that wind up on a UK label compiling some great sounds, then you could say you have a good deal of pride in them. This post will be about what my friends Avi and John have been up to...

The name Soiled Mattress and the Springs is the brainchild of an old friend and former bandmate of mine, Avi Cohen, and to my recollection was initially reserved as a joke for a Killed-by-Death style punk band. Instead, when Avi, Peter Schuette, and Matthew Thurber realized that after jamming together for a number of months, their loose jam sessions spawned a number of songs, and they might very well have something akin to a band on their hands, "Soiled Mattress and the Springs" was the name they settled on. While nothing like the style originally envisioned for the name, Soiled Mattress and the Springs is a perfect name for the Springs' instrumental, keyboard and saxophone driven tunes. A clever moniker depicting a rather benign object, but one that belies something of an uncouth and seedy side. Accordingly, the light jazz records the band was grooving on are readily apparent, but he Springs have some significantly trippier moments, like the moog interlude on "Blanko's Moondance" or the synthesizer and found-sound collage on "Someone's Drinking Water."

A number of the songs, like "Ceasar's Palace" or "Tidal Wave" for example, have taut rhythms, upbeat melodies, and really toy with the aforementioned influences. At the same time, the songs have a neurotic energy, compulsively swinging from one part to the next with the compactness and determination of a rock song. This variation makes for one interesting listen. The CD version of "Honk Honk Bonk" on Upset the Rhythm flows like an album, but is actually the two 12"s the band released on LA's Teardrops label (although the second one is unreleased at the moment in vinyl format). The band sounds a lot like comic book artist and sax player Matthew's art-- colorful, light-hearted, but somehow uncanny. They'll be on tour in the UK with No Age this May, by the by.

"Love is Real" is John Maus's second album for Upset the Rhythm, and is another 14 songs of his meticulously crafted lo-fi pop. Written, performed, and recorded all on his own, his songs are multi-layered, melancholic ditties propelled by John's deep tenor croon and his hook-laden choruses that come across as compulsively chanted mantras (like on "Rights for Gays" or "Too Much Money"). John is successful at playing with well-traveled styles and song structures as synth-pop (coming off as if later Human League had retained a good amount of its earlier grit, or like a less self-involved Depeche Mode) like on "Do Your Best" and "the Silent Chorus" and can kick out a deceptively infectious Giorgio Moroder-influenced disco jam like "Times is Weird." The impressive thing is not the successful mix of varied tuneage, but the absolutely straight-faced resolve and flawless delivery with which the tracks are executed. I don't know how much of the home-recording sound is essential to John's songs, but I'd be totally thrilled to hear a studio-produced album. John's the type of musician who could definitely pull it off; with "Love is Real" he definitely already "pulled something off".

Tenebre by John Maus

Hong Kong Bong by Soiled Mattress and the Springs

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