Everyone can relax. Kevin Barnes has gotten over the break-up and is doing much better this time around. After the high drama and catharsis of last year’s epically dark Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Barnes and the rest of Of Montreal have dusted themselves off and returned to the celebratory psych-pop days of old with the anything but Skeletal Lamping. Contrary to its qualifier, Lamping is huge, busting at the seams with ideas, style shifts, and sexed-up enthusiasm. Barnes would appear to have reached the epiphany that the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody else.
Make that multiple somebodies if his lyrics are any indication. His fauna does much more than hiss this time around as he waxes poetic about doing softcore (“For Our Elegant Caste”) and taking it both ways while doing so, taking ass against the kitchen sink (“Women’s Studies Victims”) and making you come 200 times a day (“Gallery Piece”), among other deliciously depraved acts.
In addition to his renewed randiness, Barnes conveys newfound resolve, while still betraying sincere vulnerability. Look no further for an example of this than the R&B-tinged “St. Exquisite’s Confession,” a contemplative Prince-pastiche where he simultaneously asserts that he’s “so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel, cruel city” while admitting that he’s “forgotten what it takes to please a woman” and that he “thought it was all over, but it all still hurts the same.” He then promises that “that’s all going to change,” and it does when the track crescendos into skittering beats, synths and vocoders that bring his tale of recovery and self-discovery full circle.
Indeed, Barnes’s lyrics alone are enough to make this album a triumph in their frankness, but it’s the frequently shape-shifting music behind them that makes it truly memorable. No retro musical touchstone is left unturned, be it R&B, funk, disco or ‘80s electro. The changes from style to style—often occurring within one song—can be jarring. The schizophrenic opener “Nonpareil of Favor” goes through no fewer than four stylistic transformations during its nearly six minute length, but not one of them feels forced or superfluous. Meanwhile, the climactic mini-opus “Plastis Wafers” successfully manages to incorporate all of the above, alternately shuffling, strutting and percolating while wanting to “know what it feels like inside you.”
Not every song displays multiple personalities. “An Elaurdian Instance” and single/closer “Id Engager” (download) offer radio-ready accessibility without sacrificing any of Lamping’s sense of exhilaration. The former is one of the finer examples of blissed out guitar pop this year and the latter is a glammed-up barnstormer that matches anything from the Scissor Sisters‘ debut.
As Barnes proclaims in that number, all he and Of Montreal want to do right now is play with you. That sexy playfulness was sorely missed on the equally good but emotionally harrowing Destroyer, but It’s refreshing not only to see that the gang is up to its old tricks again, but that it has improved them by honing and mixing in some of their newer ones. Just like any good lover should.
01. Nonpareil of Favor
02. Wicked Wisdom
03. For Our Elegant Caste
04. Touched Something’s Hollow
05. An Eluardian Instance
06. Gallery Piece
07. Women’s Studies Victims
08. St.Exquisite’s Confessions
09. Triphallus, to Punctuate!
10. And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow
11. Plastis Wafers
12. Death Is Not a Parallel Move
13. Beware Our Nubile Miscreants
15. Id Engager (download)
Written by: Rob Huff