Of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

8 Feb

Of Montreal is a band that I sort of lost track of after 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?  From what I’ve heard of the three albums since then, Skeletal Lamping, False Priest and this year’s Paralytic Stalks, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

I am a huge fan of some of Of Montreal’s earlier 2nd gen. Elephant 6 work: Cherry Peel, The Gay Parade, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies and Aldhils Arboretum.  My favorite Of Montreal album to date is 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic where singer Kevin Barnes virtually became the “band” as we know it.  Satanic Panic… was a near-perfect balancing act between more traditional pop music and hallucinatory psych-pop exploration.  Barnes was in lysergic bliss touring Europe, and although he was perpetually spiking his senses, there was always a musical force to come and fetch him from the brink [of chemical-driven insanity].

Every band has to evolve and so I wasn’t surprised to see the lo-fi, tweeful Of Montreal begin to explore in the early 2000’s.  Then the party crashed Barnes in 2005’s Sunlandic Twins and the albums to follow.  Elements of paranoia, depression and bitterness
start to permeate his music.  Despite its dark oddness, Hissing Fauna… is actually a very good album even if it is all over the place.  Stalks is lyrically steeped in paranoid bitterness in tracks like “Spiteful Intervention” and “Wintered Debts.”  Whereas Hissing Fauna… is a fiber optic display with colorful glints heading in every direction, Paralytic Stalks is like a shorted-out Christmas light line: two of the four colors are dead and the others are firing on strobe.  It’s a concept album that lacks a succinct concept.

I remember watching an interview years ago with Barnes where he mentioned his obsession with David Bowie.  It is apparent in Of Montreal’s earlier albums and the Bowie mania continues on tracks like “Dour Percentage” and “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff” which recall Scary Monsters…and Super Creeps-era Bowie, although “Exorcismic Breeding Knife” and the closer, “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission,” are the real scary monsters on the album.  As a whole, there is a stylistic rift occurring after “Ye, Renew…” that also mirrors the bipolar Bowie bisection of Low and Heroes.  The difference is, Bowie’s late 70’s albums are compositions versus the bizarre fragmentation on Paralytic Stalks.

Barnes seems content to produce music without pop accessibility as the ultimate goal, which is admirable to an extent, though he ends up “slipping on his own vomit” a little too often on Paralytic Stalks.  At the very end of “Spiteful Intervention,” Barnes sings desperately “Lately all I can produce is psychotic vitriol that really should fill me with guilt, but all I have is asthmatic energy.”  I concur, but it’s nothing to feel guilty about per se…it just may be time for an intervention.  At the least, I would highly recommend a few puffs of the   conventional pop inhaler and at least a year of rest and recuperation.  11 albums in 15 years and numerous other releases isn’t necessary if the quality of inspiration isn’t there.

Noteworthy Tracks: “Spiteful Intervention” and “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff”

Rating: **1/2

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One Response to “Of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

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  1. The Self-Hating Hipster’s Top 52 Tracks of 2012 « the self-hating hipster - February 8, 2013

    […] Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?  Paralytic Stalks in 2012 was no exception (click here for my review).  The album which is heavily influenced by David Bowie circa 1980 unfortunately […]

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