“the past is a grotesque animal”

of montrealYes, it certainly can be. Remember that time you yelled at your mom and were really hateful, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and uncaring towards the woman that brought you into this world? Yeah, what a rotten 4 year old you were. Or that time your best friend’s mom asked you if you liked her tater tot casserole and you said yes. You didn’t, you evil little liar. In fact, you hated it. And I won’t even bring up that whole thing with those Amish kids and the rotten tomatoes.

But hey, instead of being scared of that “grotesque animal”, you can tame that thing. You can learn from that sneering, growling beast that at any moment could jump out of the bushes of your psyche and tear your metaphorical throat out. Lay claim to your perfect little world and devour your pitiful little heart(along with that bit of tater tot casserole that was still on your plate.) You don’t have to fall victim to your own past, kids. Own it and learn from it. Grow as a person.

I’m not sure what Kevin Barnes did in his past to create his own “grotesque animal”, but I imagine it’s much worse than not eating a casserole or talking back to his mom. Speaking of “underground wires” and saying things like “tear our fucking bodies apart”, I’d say Barnes is dealing with some serious psyche trauma. Lucky for us that kind of emotional turmoil transfers nicely into great music. But he’s not one to bum us out on Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, he wants us to shake our asses and get kinda freaky. With songs like “heimdalsgate like a promethean curse” and “grondlandic edit”, not to mention “bunny ain’t no kind of rider” and “faberge falls for shuggie” you can’t help but move it, just a little bit, as you enjoy all the aural drama. Barnes does everything himself on this 2007 record, creating a lo fi vibe but in a way that Jeff Lynne would be lo fi. Dance beats, slinky bass lines, funky guitar, and plenty of synths make up the background while Barnes fills in plenty of vocals(sometimes sounding like a choir of sad little Kevin Barnes.) He may be DIY, but he’s anything but sparse and bedroom-recording sounding. I bought this album on CD back in December of 2007 on a whim. I was at Borders with a friend and saw the album cover. I was intrigued. After listening to “suffer for fashion” and “sink the seine” I was hooked. I grabbed Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer and Patton Oswalt’s Werewolves and Lollipops and quickly exited the building. So began my love affair with Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal.

I’ve realized that you either love the guy or you stay the hell away. Me personally, I think he’s the indie rock version of Prince. Now wait, before you leave in a huff let me explain. The guy is incredibly talented. Like, crazy talented. He plays, writes, mixes, and produces all of his own albums. He’s like a chameleon changing from album to album. After Hissing Fauna he released the 180 degree Skeletal Lamping. That album was like this weird edit and paste sex tape put to music. Just as you start getting into a groove it’s time to change position. Sure, at first it’s frustrating. But if you stick around and put the miles in on that record it starts to feel like a dirty game of Twister. I now think it’s a genius record. I liken it to Beasties’ Paul’s Boutique. Stop talking, I’m not done. False Priest is an R&B funk freak out. Not my favorite, but there’s some great tunes in there. Paralytic Stalks is a big hot mess of an album. Inspired by avante garde composers Barnes lost a few fans with this one. Me? I found it to be one of the best albums of 2012. Yeah, I just said that. “Wintered Debts” and “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission” are the works of a musical genius. And then last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbriar is yet another 180 degrees filled with classic Stones-isms and lyrical electric Bob Dylan jams.

So yeah, I sorta love Kevin Barnes and will follow him down any weird musical path he’ll take me. But if I have to pick a favorite, it would be Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? It feels like a moment in his life where he was the most freaked the fuck out and the most willing to share that freak out. Becoming a dad and living in the cold, dark landscape of Norway(where his wife is from), his surroundings seeped into his work. But I haven’t found a sour note yet with the guy. A couple of years ago my wife picked up this classic on vinyl for me. Beautiful double gatefold sleeve on a 2 LP 180 gram version, with side 4 being the excellent Icons, Abstract Thee EP(“No Conclusion” is ten minutes of musical bliss.)

My evening spin. Ooh, the side’s almost done. Time to put on Paralytic Stalks. Have a great evening folks.

 

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