Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Physics makes us all its bitches

Of Montreal's latest album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? finds Kevin Barnes exposed for all to see. Whereas past albums had Barnes persona buried behind characters and cute studies of human nature, this album is all Barnes - all the insecurities, sorrow, pain, doubt and redemption... and it's quite a ride.


Album: Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

The first six songs are the sounds of Barnes and his family falling apart, from the hook-filled opener "Suffer for Fashion" ("if we've got to burn out, let's do it together, let's all meltdown together,") to "Cato as a Pun" ("what has happened to you and I... and don't say that I have changed, 'cause man of course I have.") By the time we get to "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse," (the first single, see the crazy video,) it's obvious Barnes' brain chemistry is in need of some help ("come on mood shift, shift back to good again" "chemicals don't mess me up this time,") and "Gronlandic Edit," has him broken down, attempting to apply different philosophies - "the surrealists were just Nihilists with good imaginations" and "guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god, but which one do I choose?" But in the end:
We fell back to earth like gravity's bitches
(Physics makes us all its bitches)
"A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" follows, which is the first to take a step back and look at his situation (falling apart in Norway,) which allows for Barnes to come to some resolution of his terror ("this family sticks together, we will escape from the south to the west side.") At this point, the family moves back to Athens, and all is well. Or is it?

What follows is the epic (nearly 12 minutes) "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" which has Barnes "tearing the sh*t apart" lyrically over what sounds like Joy Division riffing on Dylan's Blood on the Tracks (if that was possible.) It's one riff that seems like it can go nowhere, but the lyrics and the building of layers throughout make it feel like it's going miles from it's departure point. While Barnes is all over the map with his breakdown, he does touch on several cultural references, the two most interesting are Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ("the mousey girl screams 'violence, violence!'") and French author Georges Bataille:
I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met
who could appreciate Georges Bataille
standing at a swedish festival
discussing
Story of the Eye
disgusting Story of the Eye
Story of the Eye (Histoire de l'oeil) is Bataille's pornographic classic novella, showing the dark side of eroticism through sexual extremes. Here then Barnes is reinvented as 'Georgie Fruit,' a glam-rock, opening the door for the next chapter of Hissing Fauna, Barnes' hedonistic breakdown in the wake of becoming a father. He and his wife separate and she moves back to Norway, and Georgie Fruit gets his Prince on. "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" references Shuggie Otis, has the kind of groove you'd never expect from Of Montreal, and Barnes' double-entendres are elevated by a Prince-like falsetto delivery. Lines like "now that the parachute has opened, well... don't it make you feel good?" and "be careful how you touch me, my body is an earthquake, ready to receive you;" let you know the party's right here.

"Labyrinthian Pomp" continues the Prince-funk vibe, but also finally references the album title, with the lyric "let's just say you are not the destroyer." Barnes references both the "controller sphere" and the "destroyer sphere" in the song and it seems it's a reference to male (controller) and female (destroyer) genetalia. A quick translation to a lyric in Norwegian ("du er ikke den som ödelägger fitta" sung by a female voice) reveals the "you are not the destroyer" sentiment, but adds "vagina" to the end ("fitta".) For Georgie Fruit, "the controller sphere has disappeared, and it hurts," which suggests that Fruit is transgender. We've gone Hedgwig and the Angry Inch, it seems.

The album limps, conceptually, to the finish line from here, starting with "She's a Rejecter," which is hilarious with lines like "there's the girl that left me bitter... want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her" and the rejoiner "and I know you're not her, 'cause the girl of my dreams is probably god... still, I want you." The last song ("We Were Born Mutants Again With Leafling") perhaps provides some conclusion with the line "let them say our love is peculiar," as Barnes and his ex-wife are back together, but the lyrics are pretty cryptic beyond that. The two bonus tracks here are lullabyes that delve further into Barnes sad state during his family's breakup. The first ("Derailments In a Place of our Own,") is to his wife ("how can we make things light again, how can we win?") the second ("Miss Blonde, Your Papa is Failing,") to his child ("was I born to give you a name and then be erased because I couldn't keep it together?") This one might break your heart if you spend too much time with it.

Unlike the past couple albums (The Sunlandic Twins, Satanic Panic in the Attic,) there's no one song that jumps out as a single, but on the whole, it still stands as Barnes' finest achievement, and will (joyously) demand repeated listens.

Previously:
Sansa Packing: New Releases 01.23.07

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6 comments:

drake leLane said...

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

1. Suffer For Fashion
2. Sink The Seine
3. Cato As A Pun
4. Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse
5. Gronlandic Edit
6. A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger
7. The Past Is A Grotesque Animal
8. Bunny Ain't No Kind Of Rider
9. Faberge Falls For Shuggie
10. Labyrinthian Pomp
11. She's A Rejecter
12. We Were Born The Mutants Again With Leafling
13. Derailments In A Place Of Our Own (Bonus Track)
14. Miss Blonde, Your Papa Is Failing (Bonus Track)

Eduardo Osorio said...

Excellent review. Pros for "story of the eye" man, thanks for the insight. I thought it just didn't make sense, but it does so much! Kevin has really raised the bar with this album.

drake leLane said...

It's amazing what disasters in your personal life can do to your songwriting... suffer for art indeed.

:k said...

damn.

Anonymous said...

I THINK YOU MEAN 'ITS' NOT 'IT'S' HAHAHA

drake lelane said...

oh editor, where were you for me in 2007?