Concert Review – Of Montreal



Ever the deviants, Of Montreal feel no need to rest upon the certainty of their older singles. Like a true professional should, the Athens, GA band gets thoroughly engrossed in the effort of writing a new album. The LP is an intimate form of self-expression for frontman Kevin Barnes; ideally, the music he writes encapsulates his current mental state, his concerns about how he treats and is treated by the others in his life, and whatever new composer’s tricks-of-the-trade he’s discovered. As such, each Of Montreal record effectively serves as a chronicle of that particular point in Kevin Barnes’ life. Paralytic Stalks, the band’s new LP on Polyvinyl Records, is no different, and was the primary source of material for the band’s show at Freebird last Wednesday.

The first four songs the band performed were also the first four off of Paralytic Stalks. Later, they moved into a couple other tracks from the album including a severely truncated version of “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission.” In addition, they played a couple excerpts from the rest of their career, three of them from the band’s de facto opus Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, including the whirling masochistic morass that is “The Past is a Grotesque Animal.” However, the focal point of their performance, and even the psychedelic collage of color that surrounded them on several screens scattered across the stage, was squarely on the new album and its artistic direction. The difficulty of Paralytic Stalks is easily apparent (and made more apparent by Penderecki-esque excursions of dissonance like the monolithic “Exorcismic Breeding Knife”), leading to much division among critics who either cite it as a cathartic masterpiece or a misdirected indulgence. Fortunately for many, the band steered away from this divisiveness, but Barnes’ attitude the whole night was no less than morose, reflecting the heavier themes of the LP.

Sitting behind his piano for most of the night, Barnes took to modest singing rather than the peppy flourishes he’s usually prone to. His attire matched the flamboyancy of his music, wearing a red ruffled blouse with blue eye shadow and straight hair pulled to one side, partially obscuring the right side of his face. In contrast, his demeanor channeled dissatisfaction all night, even through the more energetic tracks and ones on which he donned guitar. This negative air slowly churned until “The Past is a Grotesque Animal.” Much like it did on Hissing Fauna, this 10+ minute dirge put the night’s gradually developing mood into a new perspective. Despite their manic sound, Of Montreal songs are typically affairs of desperation, of paranoia and distrust. This duality between the sunny disposition Barnes struggles to maintain and the truths and concerns around him that often dash it away became, perhaps unintentionally, the subject of the other night’s show. In this sense, it perfectly conveyed what the band’s albums so often strive to, sometimes with debatable results.