Album Discussion: “Skeletal Lamping”

4 Nov

Skeletal Lamping“Skeletal Lamping” by of Montreal

Never have I felt so conflicted about an album as I do about of Montreal’s latest, “Skeletal Lamping.”

On the one hand, I’d be OK if I never heard it again. On the other, I feel like everyone should hear this album, at least once.

That’s why this is an album discussion, rather than review.

My first of Montreal album was the band’s eighth, “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” That album helped the band break through to find plenty of new fans, and was the band’s most successful to date.

I fell in love with the lush, delicious pop on “Hissing Fauna.” I loved how the catchy grooves sounded shallow but were actually deep and brilliant. A thinking man’s pop music.

I’m not sure how or if “Skeletal Lamping,” oM’s ninth album, follows up on that idea.

The band’s brainchild, Kevin Barnes, is typically brilliant at seamlessly weaving about a hundred different styles of pop into one song. He always gives the listener a lot to listen to, and the listener is in turn better for it.

If there were 100 song ideas per song in “Hissing Fauna,” it feels like there are 1,000 in “Skeletal Lamping.” There’s quite a bit going on, and there is, with 15 songs. of Montreal’s music isn’t easy to ignore. It requires actually listening to it. And there are some totally wonderful songs/moments you want to really listen to: “Id Engager,” “Wicked Wisdom,” etc.

At the same time, there are some really hard-to-grasp moments.

Starting at about the two-minute mark on the album opener, “Nonpareil of Favor,” there is this complete mash up of sounds that kind of sounds like what happens when a CD skips. Just two minutes into the album on my first listen, I actually cut it off and swore to never listen to that song ever again – it was just that bad. I’ve gone back and listened to the song several times since then and still can’t make sense of it. It’s certainly not a joy to hear.

“Plastis Wafers” has some truly strange moments in its six minutes-plus run – the music is so different from one second to the next you’d swear you were listening to a totally, completely different song.

The lyrics on “Skeletal Lamping” are really, really sexual, too. In fact, so much so that I don’t know that there are too many lyrics I can print. That’s not saying they’re bad – there are actually some really genius lines – but there are definitely some TMI, borderline-uncomfortable lyrics.

So I have to wonder.

Bands often get a little fishy after one album is especially successful – especially if they’ve had a string of other records that didn’t sell as well. Is the whackiness of “Skeletal Lamping” just Barnes’ way of saying, “We know, we were great on the last one…but let’s see how weird and offputting I can get on this one!”

Is Barnes/of Montreal just  making the music that comes naturally to him or is he being pretentious?
Should I feel bad if I want Barnes to bring it down a notch?
Shouldn’t I, as a music fan, want to hear as many different sounds and kinds of music?
Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of creating new music if all listeners want to hear is familiar melodies and songs that artists have basically already done?
How much should the listener take the artist’s meaning/intentions into account during the listening experience?

So I’m perplexed on this one. I love parts of this album – seriously, I can’t sing the praises of “Id Engager” enough – but at the same time, I don’t have many strong feelings about much of the record.

Share your thoughts – either on this album or on music in general. Let’s talk.

Here’s the video for “Id Engager” by of Montreal:

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