Release Date: Feb 7, 2012
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
What do you do when the orgy's over? Tidy up, look at the pictures and – maybe – obsess over the consequences. After two LPs of glammy freak funk celebrating polymorphous urges both musical and sexual, Kevin Barnes is coming down, and it's an epic bummer. On Stalks, lovers fight, get blood in their hair and vomit. Fun! The music is dense and jittery, jumping from brittle robobeats to sunshiny psychedelic soul to spaced-out majesty.
‘Ambitious. ’ It’s a bit of a dreaded word, a damning bit of faint praise usually reserved for albums that aim too high. “That album was bereft of anything memorable.
On dance-prog epic "Ye, Renew the Plaintiff," of Montreal freak-genius Kevin Barnes nearly screams himself hoarse: "I'm desperate for something, but there's no human word for it/I should be happy, but what I feel is corrupted, broken, impotent, and insane.".
For a guy as provocative, mythic, and breathlessly adored in certain circles, Kevin Barnes has gotten awfully predictable lately. Since the backhalf of 2007’s hugely-ambitious Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? And his much-publicized “transformation” into the saucy, gender-confused (and entirely made-up) avatar Georgie Fruit, of Montreal records have been a series of slightly-above-average creations of late-‘70s disco smut. By 2010’s False Priest it felt like they had worn the world’s patience to a paper-thin wafer.
The airwaves become a little more eccentric with an of Montreal release. In this sense, the arrival of their 11th album, Paralytic Stalks, is no exception. But with lead singer Kevin Barnes’ echoing vocals fading into the stormy electronic backdrop of opener “Gelid Ascent,” a shift has clearly taken place. Of Montreal have slowed things down a bit and pushed their signature funky grooves further.
Paralytic Stalks, the eleventh album by Athens, Ga. -based of Montreal, does not suffer from lack of ambition. The length — just under an hour for nine songs, the first five of which take up only 20 minutes — gives the band’s centrifuge, Kevin Barnes, ample time to stretch his musical legs, and stretch he does.
Of MontrealParalytic Stalks[Polyvinyl ; 2012]By Ray Finlayson; February 6, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetKevin Barnes’ tumultuous music hasn’t always been the easiest to follow, so it’s probably a great benefit that he’s nearly always at hand to carefully explain each release and the ideas behind it. Had it not been pointed out to them, I imagine many listeners would have remained oblivious to the fact that Barnes’ Georgie Fruit persona was emerging half way through Hissing Fauna masterpiece “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal. ” With some of his releases, though, such as Coquelicot Asleep In The Poppies or Skeletal Lamping, an explanation of what was going on didn’t really help the music make much more sense, and it was easier to just enjoy the odd, and sometimes jarring madness.
It's impossible to investigate Paralytic Stalks, Of Montreal's obtuse 11th album, without looking at the band's pinnacle: 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? That record broke out in multicolored bursts of intensely catchy pop songs that skittered frantically from disco beats to 12-minute Krautrock-rhythmed vamps, all backdropping Kevin Barnes' high-pitched tales of chemical imbalance and mental breakdown. Even from the band's earlier days of bedroom twee, Of Montreal had been doing a slightly different morph of Barnes' audacious pop personality since the very beginning. Hissing Fauna, however, was the first time any of these weird angles worked in a way that a wider audience could connect with.
Review Summary: "Once more I turn to my crotch for counsel." It was sometime around the third or fourth extended coda, amidst buzzsaw guitar riffs, cheesy sci-fi space effects, the jarring tonal shifts and the occasional burst of fire alarm noise, that I resigned myself to a particular fact: Kevin Barnes is never going to change. Or, to put it another way – he’s always going to change, usually with a middle finger aimed in the general direction of his last record. And really, there’s no incentive for him to rein himself in: ever since The Sunlandic Twins of Montreal has become a one-man show, and certainly no one is holding their breath waiting for Polyvinyl to edit their biggest draw.
Let’s just dive in and say what the biggest problem with Of Montreal’s eleventh album is: it’s a fucking awful eight minute song/sound collage/thing called ‘Exorcismic Breeding Knife’. A pallid, claustrophobic, atonal eight minute crawl of detuned strings, found sounds, daft FX and Kevin Barnes’s listless muttering, it vaguely conjures the sensation of lying down ill in a darkened room, shivering violently, while being irritated by the snatches of sounds of people having fun outside. That may actually be the sensation it’s meant to conjure, given the defeated tone of many of Paralytic Stalk’s lyrics.
God, I hated this record on first listen. Looking back at my notes, you can’t move for phrases like “extremely off-putting", “indulgent madness”, “totally fucking awful” and, perhaps most damningly, “I think this is where I get off the boat with Of Montreal”. While I have come around somewhat to Paralytic Stalks’ charms, it is a prickly beast, and many of my initial misgivings about the record are not unfounded.
We should probably be worried when Kevin Barnes, the oddball behind Of Montreal, tells us Paralytic Stalks is a more personal album. After all, the track Spiteful Intervention has Barnes singing: "I made the one I love start crying tonight/ And it felt good." And when we say "sings", what we really mean is "shrieks like a wounded hyena". In the past, Of Montreal have melted our minds with lo-fi falsetto-funk and conceptual song cycles about manic depression, and this 11th album hardly tones things down.
For the third album in a row (fourth, if you count that one EP), Kevin Barnes (who is, for all intents and purposes, of Montreal) aims to shake the shadow of Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, his well-received 2007 release. With all the requisite elements of a good concept album–instrumental passages aplenty, an unforgettable climax, and a deep, cryptic backstory that culminates in Barnes’ transformation into glam-funk superstar Georgie Fruit–Hissing Fauna has proven a particularly tough act to follow, the sort of record that’s come to define of Montreal so deeply that it’s near impossible not to compare everything he’s released afterward against it. The next record, Skeletal Lamping, played largely like a lackluster sequel, while 2010’s False Priest saw Barnes enlist Janelle Monaé and Solange Knowles for an occasionally exciting romp with bedroom R&B.
of Montreal are not a band. Or, at least, they haven't been for quite some time: Since 2004's breakthrough sixth full-length, Satanic Panic in the Attic, Kevin Barnes has largely written, recorded, and performed every album on his own, occasionally calling on outside collaborators (Janelle Monaé, Solange Knowles, Jon Brion) to add flourishes. He made the decision to shift toward creative solitude nearly eight years into a career that has now spanned 16, and the decision made sense.
It’s pretty clear by now that Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes follows his own muse. This is the man who gradually transformed Of Montreal from a charmingly twee, childlike indie-pop band to a one-man dance-rock project where he reflects on his sexual foibles and fantasies. Barnes has also spent much of the past decade pretending the group’s first six albums don’t exist.
of Montreal have always been characterised by an aversion to settle, as Kevin Barnes attempts to exorcise his demons through the medium of pop. Sounds have been tossed aside, characters come and gone, themes played out, theatre deployed.Now after the RnB pop psychedelia of ‘False Priest’ comes ‘Paralytic Stalks’, their eleventh album - billed as the most experimental album they’ve produced. It finds Barnes back on sprawling, narcissistic form.
OF MONTREAL “Paralytic Stalks” (Polyvinyl) Too much information, verbal and sonic, is standard practice for Kevin Barnes, the songwriter and studio obsessive behind Of Montreal. His lyrics pile on the polysyllables and metaphors: “Love is not a debtor’s prison, you don’t have to serve a sentence to pay back what you’ve been given/Now I live in fear of your schizophrenic genius, it’s a tempestuous despot that I can’t seem to propitiate,” he sings, to a not-quite-bolero lilt, in “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” on Of Montreal’s new album, “Paralytic Stalks. ” His music is just as dense, a thicket of instruments and stylistic allusions, in long songs — nine of them on this 58-minute album — that might veer off on tangents at any moment.
Consider it a journalistic standard: You can’t craft a review of an Of Montreal record without mentioning that Outback Steakhouse commercial at least once. Most of the time, writers bring it up because it’s a fine example of the commercialization of independent music—and it shows how a catchy (and, more importantly, bitingly nihilistic) tune can be taken completely out of context by advertisers. After listening to Paralytic Stalks, the latest effort to spring from the gleefully tortured minds of Kevin Barnes and company, the absurdity of the entire matter will finally be brought to light.
Taking in any Of Montreal record requires a certain degree of endurance and stamina on the part of the listener. Sure, more people would probably opt for a listening session of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? over Dream Theater’s Images and Words, but Kevin Barnes’ technicolor potpourri of lascivious glam-pop and spastic psychedelia is still a confounding thing to behold. And that doesn’t even begin to address the frequency of his releases (nearly a dozen full-lengths in 15 years), the puzzling storylines (“When they experiment I will become your surrogate / I really can’t conceive of any balance in my future anyways / the coma is poisoned,” from last year’s False Priest LP), or the cumbersome song titles (“Faberge Falls For Shuggie,” “Chrissy Kiss the Corpse,” “Flunkt Sass Vs.
And so Kevin, Nina and Alabee walked hand-in-hand, back to the land where purple rain washes over strawberry fields, and there they lived happily for the rest of their days. The End. Or so you’d think. But real life doesn’t work like that. It seems the black dog isn’t so easy to shake off ….