Review: John Mouse – The Death of John Mouse

John Mouse Album

Football and music do not always go hand in hand. Or ball to hand if you are a certain mercurial Argentinian. Who could forget Fat Les’ primitive to the point of Neanderthal chants about curry? Subversive Rhondda Valleys singer/songwriter John MOuse’s fourth album, funded by his loyal cult following, kicks off with a bright and jerky guitar line that could easily be caught frolicking over a Football Focus montage.

Yet ‘I Was A Goalkeeper’ is anything but moronic. Featuring vocals by Gareth from Los Campesinos, it’s an immediate shot of adrenalized indie rock that is not entirely dissimilar to its guest’s regular band. It details MOuse’s fond memories of kick-about’s with a childhood friend and a revaluation of where their relationship stands now they have reached adulthood.

Reflections of growing up in a small isolated, close-knit community are a prominent theme in the record’s strongest asset, the lyrical content. John MOuse is a unique and immensely gifted writer. Perhaps this is unsurprising for an author who will be soon releasing a crowd funded novella.

The Death of… in one moment breaks your heart with a bittersweet lament of a past life and in the next cracks your ribs with a hilariously obscure popular culture reference. MOuse possesses a delightfully dark sense of humour and a keen eye for small descriptive detail that breathes life into his grippingly descriptive anecdotes.

Five of the eleven tracks are delivered as spoken word. It’s among these that the stand-out moments of the album lie. ‘Robbie Savage’ is a child’s account of witnessing his parents separate and re-marry set to a solemn piece of piano and building strings. Treading the line between hilarity and tragedy beautifully, it vividly captures a tale of youthful disaffection, including a garden burial of Baldrick the family pet Hamster and brushing off mum’s new beau in favour of a Simply Red CD played on a scratched Sony Walkman with low batteries.

The album is musically diverse, ranging from the volatile post- hardcore pummelling of Ilka Moor to the mellow croon of ‘That’s The Way Our Love Is’. Whilst there are a few more forgettable tracks, MOuse goal here is not to reinvent the wheel. It’s clear he is not a pretentious person. His songs are littered with self-depreciation. Just as things are seemingly turning a little mushy for ‘ballad’ closer ‘Once Upon a Time in Ynysmaerdy (Will I ever Queue again)’, a hilarious male-female duet deconstructs the conventions of an awkward restaurant set date, before erupting into a sing-along chorus and soaring horn section.

John MOuse has been described as the Welsh Beck and Kurt Wagner with sexual issues. However, to paraphrase a terrace anthem, there’s only one John MOuse.

Check back this week on Plastik for an interview with the man himself.

The Death of John Mouse is out on Crocfingers on July 14th and ‘I Was a Goalkeeper’ is out on iTunes on July 7th. You can see him as part of the Please Mind Your Head fundraiser at Clwb Ifor Bach on Sunday 6th July, along with Islet, Cymbient, Oh Peas, Rhodri Brooks and more.