Of Montreal - Innocence Reaches - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Of Montreal - Innocence Reaches

by Sean Hewson Rating:7 Release Date:2016-08-13

Over 20 years, on more than 50 records, spread across all formats and genres, Kevin Barnes has followed his particular muse. Like Anton Newcombe or Robert Pollard the need to create has become all-encompassing and everything else has had to take second place. On Of Montreal's 14th studio album Innocence Reaches, Barnes says he was influenced by modern EDM and R&B music.

The reality is that there are only a few songs on Innocence Reaches that use the beats and editing techniques of modern pop - Let's Relate, A Sport And A Pastime and Trashed Exes are the most obvious. It's not really a production style that works for Of Montreal as Kevin Barnes' over-active mind makes the arrangements a bit busy. This kind of torrent of ideas works better with different sounds, as on Gratuitous Abysses which starts with an insane guitar riff (part Weezer, part King Crimson) and and insane bass-line. The reason they are insane, of course, is that the underlying chord progression is insane, it is literally all chords that exist. In amongst the insane arrangements and sounds there are also some great songs - Ambassador Bridge has a lovely, light-funk feel to it, quite like Ariel Pink or Tame Impala - bands that Of Montreal have influenced. Def Pacts mixes an almost rapped verse with a much slower Pink Floyd-like chorus. Chaos Arpeggiating (very Stereolab - writing your own reviews with your titles) puts a glam rock, Steve Harley/David Bowie vocal over post-punk guitars and Chap Pilot is a great way to finish the album.

Aside from the arpeggiating chaos, what really sticks out for me are Barnes' lyrics. Sometimes they appal me - there's a real coldness to My Fair Lady where the lady in question is at home 'cutting herself and sending me photographs' and is told that 'because you've been so abused I have to give all the love that was meant for you to some other girl'. It's a repellent sentiment that is genuinely unsettling as a pop chorus. But there's also Trashed Exes. I recommend that everyone read this lyric on the internet (they're all there already). Barnes references  Antonin Artaud, Beach-Goth and the French concept of L'appel du vide (the call of the void). He also uses the word 'corybantic'. It is an awesome lyric and has the same blend of the high and the low brow, nihilism and playfulness that Richey Edwards brought to the Manic Street Preachers' finest work. However, across all the songs on this album, Barnes is not as compassionate as Edwards. His lyrical voice is more like Morrissey's where the line between compassion and cruelty is blurred. Also like Morrissey, there is a very droll, dry sense of humour at work. As a lyricist he both intrigues me and troubles me.

This was my first encounter with Of Montreal and I was initially appalled - too many ideas and sounds, upsetting lyrics - but I became intrigued and then found myself reading all the lyrics on the internet. Kevin Barnes seems to have a total lack of filter. You get literally everything that goes through his mind. For some this is thrilling. And it is for me at times, but I like a bit more craft. This is what separates Innocence Reaches from Currents, that album by another One Kevin Band - Tame Impala. They share a lot of similar ideas and sounds but Kevin Parker has honed his into a more cohesive piece of work. However, what Kevin Barnes does have is the ability to put you in his world and it can be a frightening place with the thought torrents and the barrage of sounds. As I have said, this was my first encounter with Of Montreal, but I suspect that there are going to be more because what I found most fascinating about this album was that, by the end, it was all beginning to seem normal to me.


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