OF MONTREAL - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
When Of Montreal started ten years ago in the deep Southern state of Georgia (and not in Canada as their name may suggest), they were just a minor Elephant 6 offshoot, but with bands like Olivia Tremor Control no longer that active, Of Montreal have shown that they survived the hippie charm of the collective, at least since their genial effort Satanic Panic In The Attic three years ago. With their eighth album just released, Of Montreal, or rather Kevin Barnes as this is more or less a solo project with a little help of his friends and family, has chosen a new path. Gone are the happy colourful tunes of the past.
Hissing Fauna is a concept album about last year where Kevin Barnes lived and suffered through one year of marriage, with all the doubt, despair and other assorted bad feelings this brings with it. The twelve tracks follow his life in a chronological fashion, and therefore the first six songs show Of Montreal from a poppy side we have known already before, but never in such a long stretch. Even when singing about Norwegian black metal bands, Barnes manages to sound like worst Abba disco, and that's what I call genius. The opener Suffer For Fashion starts with giggles from his daughter, and from there on it's twenty minutes of purest pop overkill. Other bands would ruin it already there, but Of Montreal manage this with world class. The two geographically titled Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse and A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger are the highlights of that first part.
The second part is the twelve minute The Past Is A Grotesque Animal, one of the most desperate and cathartic songs I have ever come across. It's maybe a bit long, but Barnes needs every single minute to convey his anguish. It's not pretty, but then it was never intended to. The last five songs have lost most of the pop sensibilities of the first third of the album. Everything sounds disjointed now, like a patchwork of weird ideas. There is hardly any disco charm left, and once you understand the concept behind the album, you understand that the last songs on this album cannot sound any different. Experimental pop music like this can only work in a context, and Kevin Barnes manages it perfectly.
When the album is over after fifty minutes, you know that you have not only heard a really great piece of art that balances perfectly pop appeal with artistic intrigue, but also gives you a glimpse into the artist as a suffering human being who decided it more worthwhile to use music as therapy instead of just falling into deeper depression.
The only problem is that it is now in January already impossible for any other band to come up with a better album. Marginally better than Satanic Panic In The Attic, that remains with Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? is the current highlight in Of Montreal's extensive catalogue.