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Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?


Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Label:Polyvinyl
Format:Album
Media:CD
Release Date:2006
Genre:Indie Rock

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 1/31/2007

Every rising-star indie-rock band reacts to the genre's glass ceiling in its own unique way. Pavement responded to perceived marketplace potential with a twisted, self-indulgent blister of a three-sided album. Modest Mouse, to its amazement and everyone else's, broke through after a decade of touring and turmoil. The Arcade Fire accomplished the same feat on its first time out, by happenstance.

Athens, Ga.'s Of Montreal and San Francisco trio Deerhoof are--in the wake of stunning 2005 releases, incessant festival appearances, and one particularly ubiquitous Outback Steakhouse TV spot--each at the height of its respective artistic powers and clout, having released enough material to mainline your iPod through a standard workday and then some. It's perhaps telling, in a positive way, that their two recently released encores make no mainstream concessions or overtures. Of Montreal dances as desperately and destructively as it can, while Deerhoof Pro Tools its own Japanese-American take on Stereolab's Dots and Loops.

An Elephant 6 collective alum made good, Kevin Barnes, who formed Of Montreal and remains the group's only constant member, has established himself as a snickerer in retro-pop clothing, even as he sneaks dance and tribal elements into his music. Among the characters wandering through his prolix faux-Beatlemania are senior citizens mourning friends in graveyards, ambitious snuff-film actors, love-sick sad sacks, and proudly snobbish intellectuals. And while Barnes has waxed personal before, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is his most nakedly autobiographical work yet, chronicling a perilous period in his marriage so unflinchingly that it at times borders on melodrama.

As a flat snare jabs at a yo-yoing guitar and unruly, shimmering synths, Barnes lays out an abbreviated history of his relationship with his wife up to the present on "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal." His fervor escalates until the tension that's been building ruptures and he's almost screaming: "Let's just have some fun/ Let's tear the shit apart/ Let's tear the fucking house apart/ Let's tear our fucking bodies apart!" On "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider," Barnes briefly contemplates adultery on a thumping dance floor as distorted synths fizz, spit, and tangle like opposing spaceships in an 8-bit Nintendo shoot-'em-up, cooling off when he realizes his potential conquest isn't as James Brown as his spouse is: "To me you're just some faggy girl/ And I need a lover with soul power/ And you ain't got no soul power."

Even before guitarist Chris Cohen amicably parted ways with the band last year, Deerhoof fiercely finger-painted with a controlled chaos and precociousness that suited bassist-singer Satomi Matsuzaki's girl-woman vocals. Opportunity's cut-and-paste artificiality is more beguiling, like a Pixar movie, and at half the endless length of 2005's The Runners Four, it's easier to digest. "+ 81" segues from synthetic horns to Greg Saunier's clustered drumbeats to John Dieterich's dirty-bomb guitars to a splendidly simplistic kid's-show chorus from Matsuzaki--"Choo, choo, choo, choo/ Beep beep"--as handclaps and tinsel keyboards whir away in the margins. The bipolar "Cast Off Crown," marvelously, can't decide whether it's a power-pop morsel, an avant-garde sound collage, laptoptronica dickery, or a Saunier-sung spotlight. "Look Away" is 11 deceptive minutes of poking at an organ, quadrupled guitars, drone, fluff, and booiiings polished to a shine and randomly dispersed, with false climaxes and fade-outs galore.

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