||10 September 2010
||Kevin Barnes, Jon Brion
There is a tendency with indie bands to fixate on the past whilst striving for the future. The results can go either way. Of Montreal, with their new album False Priest, attempt to get the balance right.
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, the group, led by charismatic frontman Kevin Barnes, have a lot to live up to due to the acclaim of their Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? album. This time the mix mash of influences is elevated by the pop production of Jon Brion (Kanye West, Fiona Apple). His layered sound solidifies the different musical staples within the band.
Music hall, obnoxious glam pop, lo-fi indie, funk and electronic experimentation are brought together sometimes successfully sometimes not throughout False Priest.
There seems to be an over reliance on Aladdin Sane period Bowie and almost pastiche levels of Prince and Sly Stone on such numbers as the opener 'I Feel Ya Strutter' and the closer 'You do Mutilate?'. Frequently gratingly catchy, the band come across like an indie Scissor Sisters.
The involvement of Janelle Monae brings some class to proceedings. Even within the ironic humour of 'Our Riotous Defects', an over the top fifties teen paean, she adds surprising grandeur in an excellent electronica crescendo. This is one of the better songs on the first half of the album.
'Godly Intersex' continues the adventures in the future/past realm. The polyphonic rhythms and the synths hold together Barnes’s ever achingly high voice. Seventies glam never sounded so modern.
'Enemy Gene' and 'Hydra Fancies' delves deeper into the glam rock appreciation with its blurring of the sexes within the lyrics and vocals. Despite this interesting development the melodies of both tracks are quite boring and lack the invention that one would have hoped for from the band.
The space dance rock of 'Like a Tourist' is the sort of music Prince might make if he was concerned with pop these days. Its edgy dirty sound is less taut and impressive in the chorus than it is in the build up. "Don’t treat me like a tourist" sounds like Jimmy Somerville on a vocoder. Maybe Jon Brion wasn’t a great production choice after all. In saying this there is more dense experimentation in this track than in most of the album.
The zenith of the LP has to be 'Girl Named Hello'. The funky bassline and jangly stabs of guitar combine authentically to produce great indie disco filler. This is white soul and Berlin era Bowie fast forwarded into the modern age. This is the sound of big city traffic and is the most cohesive and best song on the album.
The remainder of the set is middling to fair with giant leans towards The Cure on 'Famine Affair' and whiny and weak vocals on 'Around the Way' that is saved only by a chaotic spacey ending.
Overall the album is not too impressive. There are some decent etchings of songs that should have been elaborated on or reduced in some cases. The over reliance on the Thin White Duke and stoned funk is detrimental to the album’s success due to the parody factor and the variable strength of Barnes’s vocals. The sounds that they do pull off are a mix bag of unlikely ingredients and give hope for further refining and experimentation in the future. This is a band that is very much in mind of a modern sound but they have not quite found how to go about it in their own unique way.
- Tim Gannon