Review Summary: We just want to emote 'till we're dead
It's not easy to describe this album... well, it's a concept album about lead singer Kevin Barnes getting divorced and mutating from a normal white guy into a transgender black man named Georgie Fruit. Seriously. Transgender/racial craziness aside, Barnes actually did get divorced (he would later get back together with his wife) prior to the recording of this album. He also moved to Norway while on antidepressants. Needless to say, he was going through some weird stuff. Fortunately, this provided brilliant musical inspiration for Barnes, and these themes are reflected in the fantastic lyrics found in Hissing Fauna
Continuing the conceptual theme, you could divide this album into three parts: The tracks before and after "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" and the track itself. The first six tracks deal with an emotionally strained Barnes striving to find some purpose in life, and these are also the catchiest tunes on the album. Therein lies part of the genius of Hissing Fauna
: its brutally depressed and schizophrenic lyrics are often mirrored by perfectly infectious electronic pop music. The frosty jangle of "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" begins, "I spent my winter on the verge of a nervous breakdown/ while living in Norway!" but the song is so unbelievably catchy that it has been used in Comcast commercials. As it comes to a close, we arrive at the turning point of the album.
"The Past is a Grotesque Animal" is simply an epic centerpiece. At almost twelve minutes, it's a simply stunning song. Within the album concept, here is where Kevin Barnes finally snaps and becomes the trans-sexual, trans-gender Georgie Fruit. When the song's buzzing synth attacks hit you it's as if you can feel the transformation take place. All the while, Barnes/Fruit extorts lyrical genius, speaking/shrieking line after line of frustrated brilliance. You get the sense that he is trapped within himself, that he needs to escape. "Things could be different... but they're not!" he cries. Even some bipolar instincts come through: "Let's just have some fun. Let's tear the s'hit apart! Let's tear the f'ucking
house apart! Let's tear our f'ucking
bodies apart!" In the end, Barnes submits to his new alter ego as a mountain of fuzz and screeching guitar transition into the album's third section.
And now the transformation is complete. Tracks 8 through 10 are funk monsters, sexily romping around with a sense of Georgie Fruit's newfound erotic whimsy. The best of these is "Faberge Falls for Shuggie", a lively track interlaced with an amazing/hilarious falsetto. Conversely, the last two tracks on Hissing Fauna are more regretful and lamenting, but not without their own moments of pop mastery. The listener cannot be certain what fate Georgie Fruit has accepted as "We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling" fades out on a sea of wordless melodies and piano, but they will certainly be amazed by what a fantastic experience it is that they have just heard.
This album has so many inconceivable highs and its shelf life is so timeless that it's ridiculous. I highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for something new, or who likes their pop/indie/electronic music with a twist.