Dusted Reviews

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Of Montreal

Album: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Label: Polyvinyl

Review date: Mar. 5, 2007

Kevin Barnes’s genius lies in his ability to imbue established genres with a fresh sense of wonder, shaping and re-shaping them into cartoonish grotesqueries that echo the vagaries of his own obsessions. As the perennially boyish mastermind behind Of Montreal, he’s managed to establish a long-running career through a devious form of pop osmosis.

On previous outings, Barnes kept some level of distance between the personal and the conjectural, content to wax psychedelic about old people in cemeteries and other supremely detailed, yet clearly invented characters. The difference with Of Montreal’s latest, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? lies not just in Barnes’s newfound embrace of the intimate, but also in the band’s overall musical disposition. Although some of the hallmarks of their historic, Elephant 6-centric sound are present – namely, cotton candy melodies and garish sonic facades – Of Montreal have lately undergone a transformation into a prancing, post-disco monstrosity complete with outlandish attire and poorly applied makeup.

Not many groups could wear it so well. Hissing Fauna positively oozes carnality, with its elastic basslines and electro-heavy beats providing a flashy framework for salacious guitars and Barnes’s cracked croon. It’s a flamboyant cocktail that, if taken superficially, would herald Of Montreal’s rebirth as a drug-damaged party act. That is, it weren’t for the agonized lyrics.

Barnes’s prose reads like the manic journal entries of an emotionally distraught and enormously vulnerable individual. The tunes were written during a period of personal upheaval, when OM’s ringleader was on the outs with his wife. Each number betrays both the liberation and confusion of a man separated from a longtime lover – from the reawakening of long-dormant cockmanship to the awkwardness in making a meaningful connection with anything or anybody.

It takes a minute to get to the bloody stuff, however. Opener “Suffer for Fashion” doesn’t reveal much, other than vague hipster boredom. “We’ve got to keep our little click clicking at 130 BPM / It’s not too slow / If we’ve got to burn out, let’s do it together,” Barnes sings over a jacked Moroder beat and warbly, detuned guitars. It’s indie-dance paint-by-numbers, but the track still beats the shit out of anything by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

The confessions come readily in “Cato as a Pun,” a song about maintaining a relationship with someone lacking the motivation or serotonin levels to do so. Musically, it’s austere, at least by Of Montreal standards, and the lyrics are refreshingly straightforward. “What has happened to you and I? / And don’t say that I have changed, ’cause man, Of course I have / Are you far too depressed now even to answer the phone? / I guess you just want to shave your head, have a drink and be left alone,” Barnes intones. It’s the opening salvo in a protracted war to keep his shit together, and he appears to have lost this battle.

Yet the disc isn’t without it’s giddy moments, even if the intended effect was otherwise. The spastic “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” is littered with curious references to extreme metal and sunlight depravation: “I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Norway / I felt the darkness of the black metal bands,” Barnes sings before breaking into an ecstatic, Abba-worthy chorus. The rest of the song finds him engaged in a kind of personal exorcism, which takes the form of reading and prayer. Isolation never sounded so merry.

“I’m flunking out, I’m flunking out / I’m gone, I’m just gone / But at least I author my own disaster,” Barnes offers in the harrowing “The Past is a Grotesque Animal.” Musically, the track eschews peacock strut in favor of icy guitars and a lockstep beat that’s almost cruel in its uniformity. “Even apocalypse is fleeting,” Barnes yelps over a bed of backing “oohs” that sound more sinister than sensual.

For sheer amusement value, you can’t beat “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider,” a scathing indictment of boho posturing. “I saw her, a girl kissing girls / What a shock / Said she must be an artist,” Barnes sings in the opening verse. And later: “Eva, I’m sorry, but you will never have me / To me you’re just some faggy girl / And I need a lover with soul power / And you ain’t got no soul power.” Guess he’s holding out for Beyonce.

Barnes exhibits an inclination to violence on “She’s a Rejector,” an aural shape shifter that flits between punky raveups and acoustic breakdowns. “There’s the girl that left me bitter / Wanna pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her / But I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” he bleats. That’s after declaring the lady has “busted me like a Robocop.” For Barnes, apparently, this constitutes justification.

Of Montreal have always made fine use of their resident basketcase, but Barnes’s recent crackup has provided the group with some of their most potent material to date. Although non-fans will likely continue to dismiss the band as over-the-top pop marauders, Hissing Fauna proves that there’s plenty of depth to their delirium.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Other Reviews of Of Montreal

The Sunlandic Twins

Skeletal Lamping

False Priest

Read More

View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Polyvinyl

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.