Friday, October 3, 2008

Of Montreal: New Record, Regency Grand

Okay, we'll admit it: our skepticism of Of Montreal had reached a fever pitch in the past year and a half. It could be for any number of reasons: Kevin Barnes stripping off his clothes in a deperate attempt to be Bowie, live shows loaded with prerecorded background tracks, or maybe just the fact that Hissing Fauna, You Are The Destroyer felt like a bit of an afterthought to The Sunlandic Twins. So, suffice it to say, when news came down the wire that the band had a new record, Skeletal Lamping, on the way with a bunch of fancy packaging, we raised an eyebrow. Well, kids, we're more than happy to eat crow, because make no mistake: this new record is very, very, good.

There's no doubt that Kevin Barnes mastered his trademark brand of pop quite a while back: multi-tracked vocals, analogue synths, and bouncy melodies. The Of Montreal brand of indie-pop is distinctive and easy to spot. But that's the problem we were starting to have: on The Sunlandic Twins that sound felt new and exciting, but by the time Hissing Fauna came around, we were very familair with it. It wasn't offering anything that pushed the envelope. Rather, it was Of Montreal safely in the territory of....Of Montreal.

On the new record, all of that has changed. Sure, Barnes' trademark sensibilities are still in place, but he's branched out considerably. The instrumentation is more varied, the song compositions more diverse, and vocal delivery more nuanced. Even though we're loathe to compare Barnes to Bowie, it seems to be very much a Bowiesque transition: Many assumed that Bowie was Ziggy, and that was it. It was only with Diamond Dogs that he really departed from the Ziggy archetype and started experimenting with the songs and textures that would make him a legend. It seems that Barnes' is in fact on the same path: he's pushing the limits, his fan base is growing, and he's escaping his established musical identity.

If Barnes' sonic migrations are pointing to Bowie, it has to be noted that much of his style is falling to the purple one. There's no doubt that some of the vocals have Barnes' most Prince-ian sound yet, and the cover art definitely bears more than a passing resemblance to others we've seen. What's more, the lyrics here are probably the most overtly sexual that Of Montreal has ever released - suffice it to say that there's no mincing words at any point on this record: the f-bomb is a constant throughout.

For all of these notable influences, Barnes still clearly owns this record. It is imprinted with his character throughout, and he does a masterful job at taking his influences and molding them into his own creation. The record is a game-changer for the band and we're guessing that it'll be the one to bring things to the "next level", as the folks in A&R say. What Kevin Barnes has discovered and applied with this record has yielded the band not only a new identity, but a new level of artistic credibility that will allow them to further expand their horizons.

At the end of the day, we never really had anything against Of Montreal, we had simply gotten bored. Skeletal Lamping is quickly bringing us back to the fold, and we're psyched to see that the band is touring in support of it's release. They'll be at the Regency Grand, and we can't wait to see what they do with it.

Skeletal Lamping is out on October 21st.

Of Montreal is at the Regency Grand Ballroom on November 21, tickets are on-sale now.