John MOuse ‘The Death Of John MOuse’ (Crocfingers) Released 14th July 2014
Criminally ignored; slipping below the deluge of far inferior, muted and outright insulting Brazilian World Cup affiliated singles and albums; the fatalistically entitled Death Of John MOuse opens with a football fanfare. An anthem suitable for any kids nostalgic memories of hoofing a footie past a couple of jumpers, used as the obligatory stand-in for missing goalposts. ‘I Was A Goalkeeper’, John MOuse’s most radio-friendly track yet, doesn’t so much celebrate the pomp and ‘circumspect’ indulgence of a bloated ceremony, as weave a tale of childhood innocence, in particular the tale of two friends drifting apart from the kick-arounds of their youth into adulthood.
The despondent Welsh mise-en-scène bard, joined on vocal duties by Gareth David of Los Campesinos!, peppers his Undertones barracking backing with a Mark E Smith rant; energetically bouncing off the walls as the fable echoes the nature of MOuse and his comrades inevitable repetition of their own failings as they once again meet up in adulthood.
The kitchen sink poetics continue, both understated and personal in its melodramatic poignancy with the heartbreakingly, purposeful, sadden enervated piano backed ‘Robbie Savage’: the album’s most subtle, forlornly beautiful, moment. Told in a monologue sepia of wrestling star metaphors, mistaken for the Welsh footballer turn glitter-ball fancy toes celeb of the song title, this etched lament describes the objects and surroundings, frozen in time, of a divorce and the resulting ‘moving on’ outcome: MOuse replacing his father as the man of the house, before a new partner once more takes on the role.
‘Those Two Blokes From Abba’ which doesn’t seem at first to have any relevance, later alludes to a stark outburst of violence, meted out to a battered wife. This comes out of the blue, jolting the listener from the farcical list of increasingly ridiculous famous people that the protagonist of the story is said to resemble.
Bittersweet indictments don’t come any sadder than with the care home pitched relationship between a retired, highly religious, ‘Teacher’ and his care worker, who find a touching moment of realization when MOuse’s character lends the old patriarch his copy of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings Vol. II album. MOuse mumbles a resigned, bleakly awkward, drama (debating if he should ask for his Cash LP back from the relatives when the teacher finally passes away; after it gets mixed up in the teacher’s own belongings), under-stated as ever, like a Welsh Alan Bennett on a zero hours contract, to an angular gnarled backing.
A penchant for the grown-up melodies of the post-punk and indie scene of the 80s permeates through the ATV loves jazz coos alongside Echo and the Bunnymen spirited ‘Your Funny Little Ways’, and the upbeat marching carpet burn chit-chat, highlight, ‘That’s Just The Way Our Love Is’. Elsewhere the signposts read PiL, on the harangued and beaten ‘Ilka Moor’; The Smiths tussling with Teenage Fanclub, on the “Les Miserable” ‘I’m Waiting For Your Girl’; and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, on the pastoral lilted closing epic ‘Once A Time In Yngsmaerdy (Will I Ever Queue Again)’.
Brought to vivid life in a series of colliery-smirched terraced house dioramas, MOuse’s prematurely declared demise entitled songbook is a poignant, and throughout laugh or you’d cry, observation of his own childhood and its impact upon the present. But if there was a common theme sufficed throughout the album’s eleven-tracks, it would in the form of a resigned augur that we are prone to repeat our own parents mistakes and failings and that we often find sanctuary in the comforts of the past, even when fraught with episodes of horror. It is what shapes us.