The songs on Circus Maximus tell biblical tales, playing masterfully with language so that everybody's favorite saints come out looking selfish, needy and deeply human. One of the tracks is a love song -- or so Momus claims. "'Lucky Like St. Sebastian' would appeal to anyone who's had an unhappy love affair," he says in a lilting Scottish accent. "But I tie it in with the Roman Empire, which I guess most songs about that don't do." Within the song, Momus not only laments his unrequited love for a waitress named Paula but manages to squeeze in references to the apostle Paul, the Marquis de Sade, Dante's Inferno, President Lincoln's assassination and an obscure saint named Sebastian.
"I think I was trying to undermine the whole of Western civilization," he says now with a laugh that's equal parts nostalgia and ridicule.
Momus has produced several albums since then and made a name for himself as an essayist. Still, he's not for everyone. Although he's offended his share of listeners, Momus is as easily affronted as the next person and surprisingly sensitive. He names white shoes and jeans among the things that leave him feeling shocked.
"The things that offend me are normal things, and the things that offend normal people are perverse," he says. "If everybody did the same thing, even if it were something harmless like jumping up and down, then it would become sort of perverse."