There are many things to John MOuse’s The Goat that could draw you in. Among these are the delightfully corny synth lines, the equally corny drums that sound as if they’ve come pre-packaged from a dented 90’s drum machine, and MOuse’s idiosyncratic manner of talk-singing absurd stories that function according to a sort of dilapidated dream logic. Is John MOuse mocking himself? Is this too serious to be taken seriously? Am I in a club or listening to a surrealist podcast? These are but some of the questions that arise when allowing The Goat’s bright, cotton candy synths and blaring drums to wash over you. However, if I’m honest, the gimmick grows on you.
As far as can be told, The Goat’s conceit is a less-than-elaborate scheme to make ironic fun of everyone listening to it, everyone not listening to it, itself, dance music, and being a person in general. The album’s opening track, “Le Pigeon”, a four-on-the-floor dance tune with relentless blips and an intense swooping bass, tells the story of a man who finds a pigeon in the hallway of his apartment building and is eventually forced to leave out of sheer terror. The narration is clever, odd, absurdly passionate, and entertaining for all its antics. The music itself, however, is what you’d find on an average dance floor at an average venue on an average night with a not quite average DJ. Although, as you listen, you get the impression that it isn’t meant to be more than that.
The Goat’s highlight, known as “Kerplunk Sticks”, sounds like the intro to a web series about a wannabe private eye vigilante roaming the streets, sleuthing, finding romance. A bit slower and with a bit more funk in the drums, its bass stabs circulate beneath the main melody, played on the high end of a piano with ample reverb, echoing into the city skyline. MOuse’s lyrics, again, narrate the tale of “some drunk bloke” who enters someone’s home and starts bending their silverware, presumably with their mind. That contrast between dramatic sounds and the deadpan delivery of wacky events is the strength behind these tunes. The music alone would be unremarkable, and the words alone would feel misplaced somehow. But together, they create an intelligent irony that surpasses first impressions.
John MOuse’s newest release is a performance in itself. Its theatrics are part and parcel of the album’s experience. For a relatively conventional sounding synth-pop record, The Goat asks questions about what an album, what a performance, can be. Can it be theater, literature, comedy, perhaps even cinema? Whatever it is, it’s certainly not for pigeons or people who hate pigeons.