Review: of Montreal – Daughter of Cloud
Published on October 29th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
This collection of “exclusive and hard to find tracks” from of Montreal’s oft-maligned latter-day period – 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? onwards, basically – will do little to quell the widely held notion that Kevin Barnes’s near-total abandonment of artistic restraint is to the detriment of his undoubted pop genius…
…but then the outtakes were hardly going to sound like an Electric Light Orchestra album, were they? Those still pining for another Satanic Panic in the Attic, even another Gay Parade, may despair at Barnes’s continued tendency to cram words into phrases in a way that makes Alanis Morissette look positively monosyllabic, but why shouldn’t his music invoke the real-life turmoil described within?
“How can we continue / If you’re telling the truth but I still don’t believe you?” he asks in opener “Our Love is Senile”, in keeping with the relationship meltdown which inspired/wrought this year’s actually-rather-splendid Paralytic Stalks LP, kicking off a first half of the record that sees slick pop hooks trade blows with frequently overwhelming pile-ups of ideas, the likes of which won’t surprise anyone still listening. “I would change the shit out of you” Barnes submits in “Sails, Hermaphroditic”, and you may well find yourself thinking the very same.
The sheer volume of ideas jostling for attention makes for both a challenging listen and arguably one seriously over-egged pudding, but – at the risk of doing similar with the dessert analogies – why shouldn’t he have his cake and eat it too? After all, he’s already given us several wonderful pop records, and as with Paralytic Stalks there are calmer waters present on Daughter of Cloud that see Barnes just about cling onto his unofficial status as a modern-day Jeff Lynne, albeit a rather more eccentric one. Unlike on Paralytic Stalks, these moments arrive later on.
Until then, it can be tough going; the perturbed “Hindlopp Stat” solemnly declares “She likes boys / Boys who wear cologne / She lets them take her home / To her place / Mess up her face”, the nightmarish “Partizan Terminus” reprises the “Dour Percentage” observation that “this planet is an orphanage”, while “Jan Doesn’t Like It” unravels with so much insanity as to be barely even listenable, however much the lyrics remain gripping (“I met your friends at a festival / They were so pretentious / As I was being interviewed / I thought, ‘Will they always choose the wrong time to break your heart?'”).
The ensuing “Feminine Effects” congregates pedal steel, a nice Lennon-y drum sound and a gentle female vocal, and this marks the the beginning of a suite of songs that fly the flag for Barnes’s poppier instincts. “Psychotic Feeling” is ironically titled given its relative straightforwardness – not that it’s wanting for gorgeousness or intelligence – and the driving acoustic chords of “Kristiansand” are almost Blur-like. Throw in the lean ‘n’ mean power-pop of “Micro University” and the soothing yet tinged-with-sadness “Noir Blues to Tinnitus”, and Daughter of Cloud could be considered as some kind of perversely sequenced compromise, insomuch as the fainthearted may well have been frightened off by the time it reaches more conventional terrain.
Overall, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into here as long as you’re willing to trade bites with Kevin Barnes. Latter-day of Montreal may not be to everyone’s tastes but we shan’t quibble too much with challenging pop music laced with frequent moments of songwriting genius.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Daughter of Cloud is out now on Polyvinyl. For more information, please visit www.ofmontreal.net