10
Oct
08

I’m Not a Woman, I’m Not a Man, I’m Something You’ll Never Understand: Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping

I’ll admit that I hadn’t really given Of Montreal much thought up until a couple of years ago when I first heard songs off Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer. I had somehow dismissed them in my mind as being like The Shins or any other number of American indie bands, but as I often am, I was very wrong. And I absolutely adored the last album with its unhinged blend of David Bowie and Prince theatrics and glam-funk experimentalism – and when I found out how much the band loved Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, I just loved them more. Not only was the music fantastic, but it was fantastically performed, whether at live shows (which I unfortunately have only been privy to via YouTube) or on television (I recorded their performance of Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse on Conan O’Brien in which there were so many people and props involved that they had to be classified as a theatre performance act rather than just a band, and I watched it several times over in complete awe of the ambitious, slightly insane, costume changes – I believe there was a lot of Kevin Barnes stepping in and out of his guitar, and wearing a lobster claw for awhile before rather nonchalantly ending up in a miniskirt and one garter).
Of course I wasn’t the only one who took notice of Hissing Fauna – this glam-experimental documentation of a mental breakdown ended up being quite a success around the world. When I heard a few months back that Of Montreal would be releasing a new album called Skeletal Lamping this fall, it was one of the few that I really anticipated. And now having actually sat down and listened to the record, I’m impressed with its scope which builds on the fusion of glam and avant-garde indie that appeared on the previous album. This LP becomes an epic one of sorts with its restless shifts between styles and tempos; somehow they all still fit together in a memorable hustle down an interstellar highway. Apparently, this album utilizes Barnes’s Ziggy Stardust-like alter ego, Georgie Fruit, to fuller effect than on the previous album, and along with him, comes a Prince-like funky obsession with sex and its myriad permutations.

The album kicks off with Nonpareil of Favor, which features those overdubbed Barnes’s vocals that end up creating a rather distinctive choir to back Barnes’s Bowiesque yips and squeals. Like most of the tracks on the album, style and tempo is in constant flux, ending with a pounding rhythm, reverbing guitars and vocals sounds that mimic fingers spinning around the rims of wineglasses and creating a perverse music of the spheres. It melds into Wicked Wisdom, which brings in a funky bassline, and Georgie Fruit takes centre-stage as a “black she-male” while borrowing lines out of Queen’s songbook. The album continues into a psychedelic disco number called For Our Elegant Caste, in which Barnes’s falsetto coos “we can do it softcore…you should know I take it both ways” – it feels a bit like a transsexual Syd Barrett doing the hustle. This track, in turn, blends into the broad piano chording and brief moment of sober self-reflection (“Why am I so damaged? Why am I so troubled?”) in Touched Something’s Hollow before exploding into the trumpet-led symphony of An Eluardian Instance that carries hints of A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger. However, four minutes into this song, it decides it wants to be an entirely different song before abruptly entering into Gallery Piece, which reminds me of some of the sentiments in Prince’s If I Was Your Girlfriend; the pumping rhythm backs the plethora of conflicting desires involving his/her lover (scratch your cheeks, tell you lies, write you books, crash your car, paint your nails, braid your hair, make you paranoid, etc.) as though the narrator’s id has taken over and is calling the shots as they emerge.

Women’s Studies Victims alternates between a heartbeat vibrating through walls of muscle and circuit board, ghostly voices that sound like they’re drifting through a grey haze of cerebral matter, and Barnes’s rapping over galactic organ. St. Exquisite’s Confessions is an urban-weary ballad that uses brilliant, unexpected lyrics like “sky pregnant with maggots” and “we give each other sobriquets” over a slow jam with harp-like strums of guitar. Triphallus, To Punctuate! features more of Barnes’s lyrical talents as he uses lines like “the greek chorus of my skull is choking on their dulcet tones” and “filling your womb with black butterflies” while bemoaning a lover’s newly-found fame and success. This then leads into And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow where obstacles appear and there is “bad weather in my temporary head” as sonic walls of paranoia seem to close in. The transition between this track and the following Plastis Wafers is even more abrupt and sounds like someone tuning in an entirely different channel of the narrator’s brain in mid-thought. This track is one of the more overt odes to sex as the narrator muses over what it feels like to be inside his/her lover and the kinkiness of role play extending to roles in Oedipus Rex. The Greek myth leitmotif stitches the song together as the narrator takes on yet another role as Orpheus and the music shifts into an echo-drenched, cavernous netherworld as though he/she could have finally entered fully inside his lover and curled up inside the darkness of another. The song ends with a tribal dance of demonic voices that feel like they’re circling, dilating and contracting like discoball reflections on the ceiling and walls of this dark place.

Death is Not a Parallel Move takes a more clinical and mechanical electro sound as Barnes’s detached vocals herald a final separation of the mortal and immortal pieces of the body and the second half of the song is delivered in a gentler, coaxing manner as self-destruction looms, inevitable. Beginning with scrambled distortion, Beware Our Nubile Miscreants uses a strutting glam to act as a warning to the anti-hero of this story not to fall for a particular male, who will “leave you in the k-hole to go play Halo in the other room.” Mingusings warps you into a funhouse mirror kaleidoscope, where the music swirls like a dreamscape and the id struggles back against an impending re-imprisonment in a bottle. Id Engager, the first single to hit the Internet quite awhile ago, ends the record, “screaming from the depths of a phallocentric tyranny” and wildly grooving through an unbridled disco party where gender and sexuality is irrelevant.

While Hissing Fauna took us on a journey of sorts through Barnes’s stuggle with depression and a possible nervous breakdown, Skeletal Lamping lays bare a different dimension of his psyche, especially an id preoccupied with sex and human relations. As schizophrenic as the album seems, it still has a cohesion that demonstrates a stream of consciousness that is repeatedly dammed and diverted in order to explore all dimensions of this psychological landscape. Through it all, it feels like the id is at the hedonistic party depicted on an updated version of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights on the album’s cover art, proclaiming itself in human form, a messiah for pleasure, independent of rules and classification. Georgie Fruit becomes as symbolic and controversially uncontainable as those that preceded him/her, born from a fevered, genius brain. Skeletal Lamping is truly a spectacular achievement and deserves to be remembered as one of the classic albums of the decade. Perhaps the surest way to accomplish something bigger than ourselves is to leap into bigger, alien shoes without looking. We can never fully understand all of our desires without becoming something our minds tell us we’re not. I think Kevin Barnes has proven it with this brilliant record.

Nonpareil of Favor – Of Montreal

Plastis Wafers – Of Montreal

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Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

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Muse (2004)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Photobucket

Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

Photobucket

Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Photobucket

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

Photobucket

My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

Photobucket

Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

Photobucket

LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

Photobucket

So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

Photobucket

Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

Photobucket

No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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