of Montreal: UR FUN (Polyvinyl) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, March 28th, 2020  

of Montreal

UR FUN

Polyvinyl

Feb 19, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Kevin Barnes has been doing this a while. As the brain behind of Montreal, he has been creating colorful psychedelic pop for over two decades. Yet the band's latest release, UR FUN, instantly conjures a different image from its previous work. For one, the band abandons its tradition of psychedelic album covers for a retro New Wave aesthetic. This visual shift also points to where the album goes musically—this time Barnes is conjuring the danceable synth-pop of the 1980s.

Most of the songs here are straightforward pop tunes. At its best, the album radiates an immediate, infectious joy. Many of the songs draw from Barnes' relationship with his partner, Christina Schneider (who releases music as Locate S,1), and it is evident how disgustingly in love he is. "You've Had Me Everywhere" expertly walks the line between sweet and saccharine. It delves right into cliché from the very first line, but does so with such sincere enthusiasm it is hard not to smile.

"Polyaneurism" hits another high point on the album. The track is relentlessly catchy and a great marriage of the 1980s aesthetics with the complexities of modern dating. Barnes grapples with desiring monogamy but dating a woman only interested in polyamory. The nods to Instagram and modern slang such as "put you on blast" add some tongue-in-cheek humor coming from 45-year-old Barnes. Outside of the love songs, "Get God's Attention By Being an Atheist" is a stomping arena-ready piece of electro-pop. The wordy, understated verses lead into a larger-than-life chorus where Barnes sings "We don't wanna be safe, we want experience/We want it louder."

The strong first half of the album, unfortunately, trails off. The glam-infused rocker "Don't Let Me Die in America" becomes rather grating over its runtime as the refrain is repeated over and over. Fans know Barnes can write witty lyrics, yet all the verses consist of variations on "I don't wanna die in Jacksonville/Don't wanna die in Omaha" et cetera. The bridge offers some worthwhile criticism but it's brought down by references to white Jesus and fascists, which come off as low-hanging fruit for Barnes. Other songs such as "Deliberate Self-Harm Ha Ha" are just rather forgettable, lacking the huge hooks that carry the album. The song has a good groove but Barnes' vocals sound brittle and weak, bringing the track down. "20th Century Schizofriendic Revengoid-man" brings the quality up for a spirited electro-rock conclusion, but it can't completely redeem the second half of the album.

While Barnes inhabits this '80s pastiche admirably, he doesn't do much to elevate the material past fun pop songs. The title and aesthetic change are rather fitting. The album is a straightforward set of glistening pop songs that don't aspire to be much more than that. If you are a fan of synth-pop soaked in '80s worship, you will likely find something to love here. If you want something more than a simple, sugar-coated pop album, however,  you might want to skip this one. (www.ofmontreal.net)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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