album reviews

Of Montreal
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Polyvinyl (2007)

Of Montreal's main man, Kevin Barnes, rarely seems to travel the well-worn path; his is the last remaining active group in Athens, Ga.'s Elephant 6 collective, and his '60s pop-influenced songs historically portrayed absurd characters rather than straightforward personal narratives. (Barnes's most recent nonconformist act was performing in Las Vegas naked -- except for fishnet stockings, a red cummerbund and sky-blue eye shadow.) Perhaps that's why "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?," an album inspired by his depression and separation from his wife and daughter, doesn't exactly sound like the standard breakup album.

In fact, "Hissing Fauna's" opening track, "Suffer for Fashion," almost conceals Barnes's mood: The song is so flashy and zippy that his desperation ("Let's all melt down together") sounds more chipper than depressed. Elsewhere, though, despite the bright, psychedelic music, Barnes exposes his delicate emotional state. On "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse," he pleads, "C'mon, mood, shift back to good again" and begs his medications not to "flatten [his] mind." Barnes is at his most fragile on the album's centerpiece, the sprawling "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal." Over a driving bass line and trippy synths, Barnes rants for nearly 12 minutes. His stream-of-consciousness lyrics do have moments of lucidity: His heartbreaking confession "It's so embarrassing to need someone like I do you" reveals that maybe Barnes isn't so different from the rest of us after all.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 2 March 2007, Page WE08
.: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? on