It took me a long time to realize that I like Of Montreal. Around the time Sunlandic Twins was released, I kept hearing this song on KURE that I could never place. Because a lot of the time that I listened there was no one at the station, I never caught the name of the band. Then, about a year later, I saw a commercial for Outback Steakhouse that was using a variation on the song. Who would have thought that Outback Steakhouse would prove to be the coolest of the reasonably priced steakhouse dining choices in North America? Based on the commercial, Kari was able to search for the song they used, and I learned that it was “Wraith Pinned On The Mist” by Of Montreal. So I grabbed that song off the internet, and didn’t pay much attention to their other releases over the next couple years.
I had a couple friends who liked Of Montreal a lot more than I did, but they never pushed me to check out their other albums. But then I started seeing things on my own: Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? got a great rating on metacritic, so I grabbed that one. I thought it was ok, but it didn’t knock me out. Then I grabbed False Priest, and I never looked back. Maybe this doesn’t hold true for people who have been fans of Of Montreal since the beginning, but that album blew me away. I rated it the third best album of 2010 (behind Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor and a live boxset of Otis Redding). So, when I heard that the band had a new album coming out in the first quarter of 2012, I was pretty excited.
Kevin Barnes might be the most interesting mind in music right now. He seems to create these soundscapes that no one else would think to put together, and he makes them work. Sometimes they are dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish. On Paralytic Stalks, much like False Priest, the album begins with a few songs that definitely lean toward pop, albeit with Barnes’ warped take on the genre. Then we get into the more psychedelic and dark stuff on the back half. I don’t know why he’s gone with this bipolar tracklisting, but it works amazingly well. so he must be on to something.
For the top half of the album, my favorite track is “We Will Commit Wolf Murder.” It’s the song on the album that most closely aligns itself with Of Montreal’s last album, and I like that there is some continuity between the two records. The lyrics, as always with Barnes, are creative and emotionally resonant, while remaining almost works of art themselves. There aren’t a lot of songwriters out there who can work in a line like “into some ancient reptilian form like an agnostic transubstantiation.” The song carries that False Priest-y feel for the first three and a half minutes, then goes off in a new direction for the remainder.
Two songs later comes my favorite song overall on Paralytic Stalks, “Ye, Renew The Plaintiff.” Whenever Of Montreal gets a little funky like this, I start to wonder what a world tour featuring them and Prince would be like. The bass and drums really drive this song, but it’s the guitars that impressed me most. I don’t remember hearing any Of Montreal song this brazen with attitude. Add on top of that Barnes’ lyrics, and you get something truly magical:
Oh Nina, how can I defend myself against this world
That batters me like a retarding cartoon
It’s too soon for salvation but that word is just a joke
Oh Nina, my whole system is chaos
I’m desperate for something but there’s no human word for it
I should be happy but
What I feel is corrupted, broken, impotent and insane
The best thing about Of Montreal is their ability to be everything for everyone. If you’re a lyrics person, like me, Barnes will provide enough material to make your head explode. If you’re just in it for the music, you get yours as well. Not many bands can be equally adept at both sides of music, but this band does it as good as almost anyone. If you haven’t checked out False Priest yet, I definitely recommend picking that up before hearing Paralytic Stalks. If you enjoyed FP, I have no doubt that you will love this new album. It doesn’t come out until February 7th, but there are a couple songs already posted online.