Coda Sounds

[Review] Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

Posted in Album Reviews by codasounds on November 10, 2008
Skeletal Lamping Cover Art
You can always depend on Kevin Barnes to deliver the goods–or at least entertain you in the process. The frontman to Athens, Georgia’s Of Montreal seems to constantly brush shoulders with a diagnosis of clinical insanity. And while Barnes has always had an eccentric approach to making music, his latest endeavors are, by far, much, much stranger. With the help of his band, Barnes’ schizophrenic tendencies have given way to Of Montreal’s newest album, Skeletal Lamping.

To understand Skeletal Lamping, is to understand Georgie Fruit, the self proclaimed alter-ego of Barnes. According to the frontman, Georgie Fruit is a black man who has “been through multiple sex changes. He’s been a man and a woman, and then back to a man. He’s been to prison a couple of times. In the 70s he was in a band called Arousal–a funk rock band sort of like the Ohio Players.” The transformation of Barnes into his alter-ego occurred last year with the release of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, which chronicles the “death” of Kevin Barnes and “birth” of Georgie Fruit. Ever since the album’s release, Barnes has performed on-stage as his black, transgendered, glam-rock alter-ego (Hell, he even performs naked). Skeletal Lamping is a concept album that further delves into the hyper-sexualized psyche of Georgie Fruit, and explores the bizarre fringes of psychedelic-rock, electro-pop, and funk.
Skeletal Lamping is unmistakably different from other Of Montreal releases. While previous albums balance healthy doses of pop and psychedelia, Skeletal Lamping dabbles in a muchfunkier sound. Overtly sexual lyrics and bouncing bass lines makeSkeletal Lamping seem more like a Rick James record. Yet, still in tact, are the pop hooks for which Of Montreal are known. The balance act between funk and pop is evident throughout the album, and Barnes swaggers conspicuously between the two. This hybrid style produces certain tracks that feel as if they are made up by multiple songs. The track “Triphallus, to Punctuate!” combines so many elements of funk, pop, rock, and electro, that it sounds more like a mash-up song off of Girl Talk’s latest album
However, the oozing funk sexuality of the album proves to be abit too much to digest at times. Tracks like “For Our Elegant Caste” and “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” employ such funky sounds and suchdirty lyrics, that it almost seems like a joke–as if Flight of the Concords were called into the studio as guest musicians. Lyrics like, “We can do it softcore if you want, but you should know I take it both ways” clue listeners in to Georgie Fruit’s confusing sexual life as a post-op tranny. But, ultimately, such farcical lyrics detract from the high-points that Of Montreal manages to hit on Skeletal Lamping.

The hardest part for long-time Of Montreal fans will be accepting the new direction and image of the band. The hardest part for newcomers will be understanding just what in the hell is going on. There’s plenty of palatable material on Skeletal Lamping, but Barnes’ lunacy (whether real or a complete act) contributes to a schizophrenic vibe that causes the album to lose focus at times. Some people will say that Kevin Barnes is insane, and some people will say that he is a genius. And people will always say that the line between insanity and genius is thin. But, who ever said there was a line in the first place?
Rating: 7.6