Review Summary: of Montreal's latest release, "Skeletal Lamping," is a fascinating album doubling as an electronic musical collage and a lyrical discourse on sexuality. Its schizophrenic lack of song structure will turn off casual listeners and captivate seasoned fans of
Wow. How do I begin to describe Kevin Barnes’ latest offering? It’s titled Skeletal Lamping, and it’s a sweaty, pulsating sexual beast of funk, indie pop, and everything in between. Let’s ignore the clever marketing ploy of releasing an album in seven formats (including a t-shirt, a tote bag, and an attractive paper lantern) and selling the whole package for a little over $100: this is not an easily marketable album. Despite containing some of the group’s catchiest and most danceable material ever, the songs play an eclectic hopscotch that will fill fans with adoration and give detractors a headache. If you were baffled by 2007’s behemoth “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” or mildly turned-off by the lyrical content (and shrill falsetto) of the latter half of of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, then go no further than the bright piano jingle of Skeletal Lamping’s opener “Nonpareil of Favor.” The first mini-song of the track sounds like a promising dance tune that wouldn’t sound out of place on most radio stations. Part two is quite enjoyable, too, lilting along with bright and sunny pop. Just wait until Kevin Barnes (or rather, Georgie Fruit) begins “cracking his sweet love.” The result is a thudding four minutes of an unstoppable wall of noise undoubtedly designed to kick the casual listeners off the bandwagon.
If you’re not familiar with of Montreal, here’s a little background: the group started out as a psychedelic pop band associated with the Elephant Six collective in the late 90s before slowly transforming into a one-man glam band. On his most recent album, Hissing Fauna, Kevin Barnes transformed himself into a black transsexual funk singer named Georgie Fruit. He’s sort of a 21st century politically-incorrect Ziggy Stardust. Skeletal Lamping is Georgie Fruit’s album, a hodge-podge of pornographic pop that you’re either going to love or hate. I’m not going to hide my bias. I fall into the former camp, the “camp” camp that loves of Montreal more with each release.
The day I received my 180-gram vinyl copy of Skeletal Lamping, I sat back and enjoyed the 50 minutes without the pressure of song divisions. This is imperative to appreciating Georgie Fruit’s intentions. The album is not so much a collection of songs as it is a mosaic of choruses. Each segment lasts for about a minute or two before jumping into something new and disjointed. I don’t expect everyone to love this tactic, but it certainly blew me away. With each mood shift I found myself more and more drawn to this elusive creation. “Wicked Wisdom” hit like the latest Timberlake single (“When we get together/It’s always hot magic”). “Plastis Wafer” dripped with sleazy sexuality (“I want you to be my pleasure-puss/I want to know what it’s like to be inside you”). “Women’s Studies Victims” blared a chilling 808 beat punctuated by horns and strings before breaking into an a cappella declaration: “They had painted her face like a man’s mistake, gang-banging a sad return to the eagle-shaped mirror; I’m the kind of mannequin that cheats and opens its eyes to the ladies of the spread.” The song is haunting and it yearns with sexuality, and by the time the blues-guitar riff kicked in I knew I was in love with this music.
Not sure whether I like this album or not. It's definitely rather schizophrenic in a musical sense, the lyrics are nothing to call home about, and it's never clear exactly when Barnes is in "Georgie Fruit" mode, as I found many of the lyrics to have nothing to do with Fruit at all.
Perhaps this will grow on me more than it already has already. Even now, as a mere critic of music, I think it's definitely something hardcore and even moderate fans of the band will love, and it's something even I can appreciate, even if I'm not in love with it. There are lots of hooks, but at the same time some dull and awkward moments. I'd give it a 3, perhaps a 3.5 or 4.0 if it grows some more.