Rockin' Our Turntable: of Montreal
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 7, 2010 4:40PM
While we have long admired Kevin Barnes' ambition we’ve often found his execution to be flawed. The albums he’s released as of Montreal have often had thrilling moments, but unfortunately many of those are hidden by the thickly tangled music created my Barnes’ seeming inability to edit himself. Songs twist and turn too many times and come unglued as Barnes tries to stuff every musical idea that comes to him into every sonic crevice he creates. of Montreal often irons out these problems when the band collects as a live ensemble, even if we haven't always identified with their shows a s a whole, so we’ve long wondered what Barnes could create if he approached things differently.
We got a hint of what could be possible when Jon Brion was given free reign to remix a few songs of the band’s deeply frustrating Skeletal Lamping album and the finished product was a revelation. Brion took Barnes’ work out of the land of laptop recording and re-presented it in a cinematic widescreen that brought out the hidden charms I of Montreal’s music. We’re strong believers that even geniuses need foils to keep them somewhat in check - there’s a reason Barnes is often compared to Prince in terms of the quality and quantity of their output - so we were thrilled to hear Brion was on board to produce False Priest, out a week from today on September 14.
False Priest is easily the sexiest album in of Montreal’s oeuvre, even if it’s not the most challenging. We’re not used to Bares and crew sounding so vibrant and so deeply colorful, but we found ourselves blasting False Priest first through headphones, then stereo speakers and then with great glee through a club sound-system. The funk that drives many of their songs on stage but was often buried behind walls of treble on their albums is allowed to flow forth, rumbling and vibrating and driving the grooves in a way that, for of Montreal, is revelatory and exciting. Indeed even Barnes’ voice carries an unexpected richness, evoking a gentle tenderness we’ve never heard on the sweet groove of “Enemy Gene” while dripping with a mixture of humor, caustic wit, and surprising vulnerability on the darkly comic “Our Riotous Defects.”
False Priest is not a perfect album. We would have loved to see the band branch out more to deliver truly unexpected gems like the driving guitar rawk that makes “Coquet Coquette” such a rush, and while the album benefits overall from a tightening songcraft, Barnes does occasionally lapse into repetitive tropes that rob some songs of their potential. But we believe strongly that despite these minor points False Priest is easily the best album that of Montreal has released in years. Each listen seems to peel back another layer or reveal a delightful little touch we missed on the listen just before, allowing us to listen to the album over and over again with growing enthusiasm. We may just have a modern classic on our hands here.
of Montreal plays on September 25 at The Riv