[sic] Magazine

Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

Reviewed by: Jamie Milton

Is it wrong, heartless even, to put album tracks on shuffle? Yeah, probably. Try getting the same effect from ‘Kid A’ or ‘Untrue’ when you let iTunes make its own tracklisting. So it’s quite obscene that ‘Skeletal Lamping’ it more enjoyable when the tracks are scattered -they were scattered in the first place so by all means you can cross out the “heartless” part of the opening question above. This is only really because Kevin Barnes is a scatterbrain of the finest kind, a melting pot of weird ideas that the finest of psychedelic drugs couldn’t force out of The Beatles or Floyd. Barnes has always been a flickering light, changing his works before they can be classed as perfection, simply because one idea after another, things are improved. And even though Georgie Fruit (sex-obsessed alter-ego) is the frontman of the band for the majority of the time, and even though that’ll make you feel a tad uncomfortable to start with, whoever’s behind the voice, things sound busy.

One piece of advice: try to forget what Barnes has said in interviews during the build-up to the record. This is an album made up of segments, true, but it’s difficult to believe that he’s randomly assigned places for these segments like say, your media player would. Because if he has, things have turned out suspiciously well. There is variation though, to say the very least. ‘Plastic Wafers’ is determined to confuse, to prevent you from working out exactly what this record is about whereas the highlight on the album, the more straightforward ‘Beware Our Nubile Miscreants’, has it all figured out. At times ‘Skeletal Lamping’ is reflective (‘Touched Something’s Hollow’), at times it’s joyous (‘Id Engager’), at times it’s seductive (‘St.Exquisite’s Confessions’) and it all provides a startling insight into that mind we all want to acquire a piece of, that belonging to Kevin Barnes. Lyrical content provides us with interest more than anything else, Barnes is vulnerable and egotistical when he shares with us that he “wanted to fire all my friends, and just start over again” and all of a sudden he’s alive, “I wanna show you off, I wanna tell you lies, I wanna write you books, I wanna turn you on, I wanna make you come, two hundred times a day”. This album will go down as the most schizophrenic of all their releases to date, and to some, their most compelling.

The problem with ‘Beware Our Nubile Miscreants’ being the album’s peak-point though is the fact that it’s the first and only real break you receive after enduring, yes, enduring, a relentless frenzy of concepts and musings that refuses to die down, refuses to go to bed, sort of like a 4-year-old-child who’s been given too much orange juice. And so as this delightful refrain becomes your personal favourite, you come to realise that a giant proportion of ‘Skeletal Lamping’ may be fascinating, but that’s about it. ‘Mingusings’ combines two straightforward pieces together, and that’s perhaps the way the rest of the record should sound. Because when the opening ‘Nonpareil Of Favor’ suddenly breaks into a gigantic clashing of sound and noise, it’s dissatisfying – something that Of Montreal have rarely been previously.

Listening to Fruit’s erotic threats of “making you come two-hundred times a day” is enjoyable on face value but it makes you question whether Barnes is all head and no heart. ‘Hissing Fauna’ excelled in giving us this distorted but exposed and fractured personal content throughout about Barnes’ divorce. ‘Skeletal Lamping’ represents the moving on of that period but perhaps we’ll all be wishing personal trauma on this kind fellow once more, as unkind as it may be. Once observed a little closer though, this album does have personal touches to it. Its purposeful lack of direction represents the indecision on behalf of Barnes, his confusion at the present time and that’s what makes ‘Skeletal Lamping’ a lot more than just a messy bedroom of a concept album. Eventually, after a seemingly never-ending quest of discovering just what the Hell is going on, you come to terms with the fact that this is just too difficult to understand. Instead, you just await the “best bits”, listen after listen.