The pitfalls of romance and love lost are often found in the razing of a great album. Despite the difficulty of accurately articulating such personal pain through music, Of Montreal’s latest release, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, draws on singer Kevin Barnes’ recently rocky relationship with his wife with an honest and creative approach that many artists could only dream of touching.
Sometimes heartbroken musicians find solace in expressing their angst through sad, sappy lyrics or depressing, can’t-get-out-of-bed rhythms. Others get their jilted lover’s revenge through exaggerating the hyper, “I’m so over you, you nasty sleazebag” attitude with happy beats.
The problem with each of these approaches is that they’re often pretty transparent, leaving out love notes and rewriting history of zealous arguments between the staffs of a soundtrack whose ending is evident from the beginning.
In all, most artists shouldn’t be criticized too harshly for those shortcomings, as tackling the story of a sordid love affair as a concept album is indeed a challenging task.
Hissing Fauna takes the concept head on, using manic pop and unstable mergers to convey the tale of Barnes’ love with depth and wit.
“Suffer for Fashion” leads the album in a frenzied sprint, warning the beginning of the end in which Barnes croons “We’ve got to keep our little clique clicking at 130 b.p.m./It’s not too slow/If we’ve got to burn out/Let’s do it together/Let’s all melt down together” over hyper-controlled beats.
Hissing Fauna embraces a super-sexy Foxy Brown-ish ambiance on “Cato as a Pun.” The track clinches the bowels of heartache, pleading with “I can’t even pretend that you are my friend…/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…/Is that too much to ask?”
Of Montreal presents one of the greatest songs to ever rip off the good-time feel of Christmas-carol happiness to express a near meltdown. Barnes sings “I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown/While living in Norway/I felt the darkness of the black metal bands/But being such a fawn of melody/Didn’t burn down any old churches/Just slept way too much/Just slept…” as though hard times were the best times of his life.
Hissing Fauna does well in expressing a tough journey while having a great time simultaneously.
“Labyrinthian Pomp” teases – “How you wanna drag my style?/I am so superior/How you wanna hate a thing when you are so inferior?/How you wanna mess my smartness that you know…/Let’s just say/you are not the destroyer” to a crazy, taunting rhythm that’s as fun as it is funny.
Hissing Fauna is solid, sassy and its crafting is savvy – in all, it’s a marvelous creation.