Feb 08, 2012 Web Exclusive
On dance-prog epic "Ye, Renew the Plaintiff," of Montreal freak-genius Kevin Barnes nearly screams himself hoarse: "I'm desperate for something, but there's no human word for it/I should be happy, but what I feel is corrupted, broken, impotent, and insane."
Sounds about right. Ever since the notoriously weird climax to 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Barnes has been on a fascinating space shuttle mission through the darkest, most polarizing caverns of his fucked-up id. The dense, vulgar, laughably stupid Skeletal Lamping (sung from the perspective of Barnes' gay-funk-porn-star-alter-ego Georgie Fruit) took of Montreal to their most densely extreme peaks, but 2010's Jon Brion-produced False Priest was a soulful, tuneful return to form. As demonstrated by the tortured musings on "Plaintiff," Barnes is no longer hiding behind faux-funkiness or obnoxious character concepts on Paralytic Stalks, self-described as his "most personal" album yet.
Unfortunately, the one-man-band hasn't totally abandoned the thesaurus, still cramming spoken-word rants into miniscule spaces where hooks would do. On spacey opener "Gelid Ascent," Barnes sounds like a lunatic hippie cult leader: "You are what parasites evolved from, still an unanswered question/You are the refuse energy from the superior form." But these are momentary lapses of reason—Stalks is emotionally raw and (at least for Barnes) lyrically direct, full of brutal reflections on his turbulent, obsessive marriage. On electro-piano ballad "Spiteful Intervention," Barnes whines himself into a frenzy ("I made the one I love start crying tonight/And it felt good!"), painfully out-of-tune, yet more unfiltered than we've heard him in years, detailing the realities of a bitter married feud with stark honesty (at one point, wife Nina actually smashes up his recording studio).
Musically, Stalks is a tour de force, filled with colorful new sonic tricks (hired hands handle flute, sax, and orchestrations), along with pianos, layered beats, and Barnes' trademark funky bass. "Dour Percentage" is a master class of melodic development, like 40 soft rock classics crammed into one disturbed sing-along. "Somehow I lost the thread of being human," Barnes cries on the acoustic-orchestral epic "Wintered Debts." Ironically, he's never sounded more like an actual person—one with a bruised, beating heart. (www.ofmontreal.net)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10