Of Montreal – ‘Skeletal Lamping’

June 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, April 7, 2009.

Of Montreal
Skeletal Lamping
(Popfrenzy/Stomp)

Hmm, difficult. Difficult, difficult, difficult. Yep, difficult. To suggest Skeletal Lamping – Athens, Georgia indie pop freaks Of Montreal’s umpteenth album and follow-up to the brilliant, neo-psychedelic, sugar-pop depressions-session of 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – is a challenging record would border on insane understatement.

This is one big electro-funk, psyche-pop, Prince-loving, fucked-up Rubik’s Cube of an album. Where insanely cryptic song-trails begin and end is anyone’s guess. What they might mean? Who the hell knows. “I wanna make you scream / I wanna braid your hair / I wanna kiss your friends,” whoops front man Kevin Barnes on ‘Gallery Piece’, perhaps the album’s most straightforward track. “I wanna crash your car / I wanna scratch your cheeks / I wanna make you sick.”

It’s kind of fucked and kind of fun, and it takes Barnes’ high-camp, post-marriage and fatherhood alter ego Georgie Fruit to new depths. His incrediblle ear for a hook is still there; it’s just that he’s jammed 10 different hooks, melodic passages and freak-funk wig-outs into each and every track, and it’s damned near impossible to follow. His crypto-surrealist lyrics, too, have you desperately trying to join the dots. His croons of being “so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel, cruel city” are easy enough to trace through the melting groove of ‘St Exquisite’s Confessions’. It’s lines like “They had painted her face like a man’s mistake, gang-banging / A sad return to the eagle-shaped mirror,” over a hymn-like passage in ‘Women’s Studies Victims’, that have you scratching your head.

It’s all rather extravagant and obtuse, and deliberately so. Moments of pop and funk splendour are just that – moments – and it feels like Barnes is testing both his and his listeners’ wits. A groove or melody or a hook is something so fleeting that by the time it has even registered, it has metamorphosed into something different entirely.

In one sense, it’s pretty damn exciting – admirable even. More than decade into Of Montreal’s collective career and they’re refusing to rest on their laurels, even for a second. Whether that translates to good or anywhere near coherent music is another thing entirely.

Students of Barnes will find this fragmentary psychological car crash fascinating. Others may well find it…hmm, difficult.

Dan Rule

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