Theatrical glam-rock is a phrase that can only explain a handful of musicians. But when it’s done well, the outcome is fascinatingly charming. Kevin Barnes and his rotating slew of musicians in of Montreal have been creating music of the sorts since the late 1990s, with only a few hiccups.
Since 2007’s release, Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?, the Athens-based group hasn’t sparked quite the same frenzy. Of course, every group reaches the peak in their career where nothing else can surpass the brilliance of one single album. But with that aside, Paralytic Stalks has just the right amount of psychedelic funk, witty lyricism and catchy hooks. And for those fans engulfed in the ’07 sound waves, Paralytic Stalks may just be the right remedy.
The three full length albums, various EPs and remixes released in the past four years came with a lighter undertone and bubbly persona. Of Montreal received a string of “OK” receptions, gaining continual accusations of mimicking Prince and Freddy Mercury. While those same tendencies appear on this album, the heavier blends and bulkier sounds are pleasantly reminiscent of Hissing Fauna.
Recorded in Barnes home studio, of Montreal’s eleventh studio album is produced, co-engineered, written and performed by the front man himself. He did have some help from various session musicians, though. Among those featured is woodwind/brass musician Zac Cowell, who ended up landing a spot in the band’s lineup. But no matter the number of musicians on Paralytic Stalks, Barnes doesn’t shy away from personal exposure.
Album opener, “Gelid Ascent,” sounds like a basement keyboardist from the 1980s. Echoed vocals and distant, sparse instrumentation could come from one of two types of people: an electronic genius of our time or Ross Gellar. Luckily after a little over a minute, of Montreal bursts into a full orchestration of psychedelic wonder that extends for nearly an hour.
“We Will Commit Wolf Murder” is one of those up-beat tunes with devilish lyrics. Barnes sings, “There’s blood in my hair,” on rotation as the breezy melodies fade and mysterious dance beats pound with strobe-light enthusiasm. It only lasts a couple minutes though. Before the fog machine is set up in delight, Barnes takes a quick pivot back into a colorful world of wind instruments and delicate piano. He glides straight into “Malefic Dowery,” a dreamy lullaby where one can only imagine unicorns and candy forests.
Feed off one another in a continual pattern, each song comes with a varying depth of personal aesthetic. Songs such as “Wintered Debts” and thirteen minute closer “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission” are formed like a dense theatrical soundtrack. Crashes and clatters are spun around spurts of minimal composition for dramatic scenery to end this on-going story.
There are some things that haven’t changed – and hopefully never will – about of Montreal: spiraling falsetto, mural-like album art and bizarre song titles. And that’s just the shell of it. As every emotion breaks out and all the colors of the rainbow shine through, of Montreal aims to create something as intricately woven as Hissing Fauna. Well, it’s pretty darn close.
Of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks tracklist:
- “Gelid Ascent”
- “Spiteful Intervention”
- “Dour Percentage”
- “We Will Commit Wolf Murder”
- “Malefic Dowery”
- “Ya, Renew the Plaintiff”
- “Wintered Debts”
- “Exorcismic Breeding Knife”
- “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission”