Of Montreal should be in the dictionary under the definition of weird.
They’re crazy, alter-ego weird. This band’s creativity, ambition and carelessness for anyone else’s ideas or opinions make Lady Gaga seem like a slightly more rebellious Rebecca Black.
Of Montreal is out there, and their new album, “Paralytic Stalks,” takes this blatant disregard for normalcy to a whole new level. Avant-garde and experimental can’t come close to the sound in a music culture where anyone can do whatever they want. Even those crazy genres and styles have their own boundaries.
Kevin Barnes, the founder, singer, song-writer and everything-else for the band, takes the already strange progressive, electronic, glam and psychedelic pop and adds in 20th century modern and minimalist classical music. It’s what would happen if Prince, David Bowie and Ligeti collaborated. The results are at the best moments deep, thoughtful and artistic, and at worst meaningless, incoherent and self-indulgent.
Lyrically, the album doesn’t deviate from the typical of Montreal structure. It takes a keen ear, a lyric sheet, and a dictionary to understand what Barnes could be trying to say with this album. Like past releases, he isn’t afraid of vulgarity or taboo subjects. Anything is fair game here. Regret, revenge and relationships all get discussed in ways that other lyrical styles couldn’t begin to describe.
The vocals follow suit with of Montreal’s own signature blend ranging from overdubbed, effects-laden falsetto harmonies in one moment to a growling yell in the next. The instrumentation keeps the norm of electronic drum beats, heavy synthesizers, hyperactive bass guitar and twinkling electric guitar. This time strings, horns, flutes and pianos are thrown into the blender of sounds. Layers and layers of sound fill each song to the brim with different voices.
The structure of the songs takes a turn right down Strange Street in this album. Right from the start, seemingly random noise gives way to spoken vocals and droning synths. After this beginning, the album sticks close to the band’s sporadic but pop-like structure. After four tracks, things start getting really weird. The final five songs range from easy-listening elevator music to the most cacophonous, structureless nightmare of a song in the album’s 13-minute conclusion, ‘Authentic Pyrrhic Remission.’ Songs turn into totally different songs without warning or transition. It’s hard to know whether it’s all meticulously planned or carelessly thrown together.
Overall, this is a good album, although tough to listen to at times. Sometimes it feels like a chore to listen to, but other times, the complexity is a breath of fresh air in a world of simple pop music.
Rating: 3 out of 5