Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Of Montreal – ‘False Priest’ (Polyvinyl)

It was always going to be very difficult to top 2007’s masterpiece ‘Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?’ Of Montreal leading honcho Kevin Barnes attempted to recreate that fate a year later with ‘Skeletal Lamping’, which don’t get me wrong, had its moments and some definite quirky pop gems for that matter. But despite all praise and positive reviews it got, by his standards it was not a patch on its predecessor. So what do they come up with next? This time it has taken 2 years to follow up ‘Skeletal Lamping’ and in the form of ‘False Priest’ you can hear where that extra time went, adding extra R&B elements with a deep pop production, Kevin Barnes is onto a sure fire winner once again.

Album opener ‘I Feel Ya Strutter’ has no introduction, launching straight into the chorus bar a 2 second timpani percussive beginning, showing that they don’t want any bullshit on this record. ‘Our Riotous Defects’ demonstrate the humour that Of Montreal has so consistently mastered throughout their 10 album back catalogue. Barnes portrays a couple of spoken word passages about a “crazy girl” he may or may not have had some infatuation with. The first single from ‘False Priest’ ‘Coquet Coquette’ is a clear highlight. Showing emphasis of a Spectoresque Wall of Sound together with a sensuousness that show confidence that the band are personally pleased with the way things are going.

Helped by the production of Jon Brion, we get this soulful vibe in the records sound, returning to live organic instruments together with sequencers and midi sounds certainly making ‘False Priest’ their most funky release to date. As well as this, I also notice a clear sassiness in Barnes’ lyrics. Tracks like ‘Godly Intersex’, ‘Sex Karma’ and ‘Girl Named Hello’ are fine examples that to a certain extent wouldn’t sound out of place at a classy 70’s disco. ‘Enemy Gene’ and ‘Sex Karma’ feature guest appearances from R&B stars Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles respectively, while we continue that 70’s soul vibe with the excellent ‘Famine Affair’. Closing track ‘Do You Mutilate?’ continues in the similar formula we get throughout ‘False Priest’, during the first 2 minutes at least. The track then develops into this robotic sounding vocal freak-out for a further 4 minutes about sporadic themes such as race and the afterlife. A track that is nightmarishly creepy yet still blissful and funky at the same time.

So whilst Of Montreal has continued to develop new ideas on this record it still sounds very much like their own. A fusion of Psychedelia and R&B seem have worked well on False Priest, with Barnes himself branding the term “Soul Punk” during a passage on ‘Do You Mutilate?’ which could well be described as the albums sound. As excellent as ‘False Priest’ is though, the steadiness is by no means perfect. ‘Hissing Fauna...’ was indeed perfect in every way shape or form but you wouldn’t expect them to top it’s genius just yet. However, I would say that it is a more consistent and coherent LP than ‘Skeletal Lamping’. Barnes and his band are heading in the right direction towards creating another flawless record yet again.

Words: Freddy Rothman

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