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Of Montreal: ‘False Priest’: 13 tracks of terrible

September 23rd, 2010

There are plenty of reasons to wish it was still 2004. “Hey! Arnold” was still being aired, there was a thrilling presidential race to ignore, and Of Montreal was still good. 

But in the last six years Kevin Barnes has developed a problem. He’s forgotten that there’s a difference between making idiosyncratic, off-the-wall-awesome pop albums and trying to bring back the Bee Gees. 

This issue is one that is unfortunately passed off on fans of his band whose 10th studio album, False Priest, was released last week.

The 53 minute tour of mediocrity passes with little relief from track one, “I Feel Ya’ Strutter,” to track 13, “You Do Mutilate?” 

I now know that Barnes is all sorts of frustrated, though mostly with sex and himself, and that he has turned to a combination of R&B, club rap, and Scissor Sisters b-sides to fill the void. 

With lyrics like “I want somebody to frisk me / I want this night to distort me / But I didn’t come here just to see you dancing / No, or to admire your art” from “Like A Tourist” half chanted over a generic beat, my exasperation rises with his. 

On “Girl Named Hello” he moans that, “If I treated someone else / The way I treat myself / I’d be in jail” Apparently he can’t stand his band’s new sound either.

All 13 of the songs have, in some fashion, undertones of one half of a failed relationship. This would be fine, but gone is the spacey, seemingly night-terror fueled trippiness of vintage Of Montreal. 

As philosopher Philip J. Fry once noted, “that dog won’t hunt monsignor.” There is nothing wrong with a common thread or inspiration for an album, but here it just seems like one unending lament about the difficulties of life as Kevin Barnes. 

The only true standout is the appropriately chosen single “Coquette, Coquette.” With its twisted vision of putting a lover on a pedestal played out over a stomping back-beat and crunchy guitars, the song reminds me why I liked Of Montreal in the first place.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a falling out with Barnes and company because of the lyrics False Priest’s songs contain. The prevailing sound and songwriting of the record are culled from the worst of 70s disco-funk and served up with cover art and liner notes. 

The album as a whole sounds like something a little less structured than Barnes sitting down at any of the instruments he plays this time around and winging it. 

More often than not the songs contain sections in which Barnes talks, whines, and then builds up to wails about how fed up he is with the topic of each particular track, which is usually some form of sexual frustration. 

Duets with Solange Knowles and Janelle Monáe on several songs do nothing to improve the fact that this a CD that is less than marginal.

In an interview over the summer Barnes said that on False Priest, “We try to have these moments where you’re really having your mind blown, especially if you’re listening to it on headphones.” 

I thought I missed something the first three times through, so I put on my own headphones for three more listens and the only thing that blew my mind was how far Of Montreal has fallen. 

My opinions of this record are summed up on the song “Famine Affair”: “I don’t want you anymore / I don’t love you anymore / Go away / Go away / Go away / Go away/ You’re a bad thing / A terrible thing.”