Of Montreal - False Priest

Album cover
Experimental, Indie-Pop
Polyvinyl Records
Of Montreal
False Priest
Of Montreal - False Priest Review rating:
4
User rating:
Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Awhile back, I read an Of Montreal review that described them as "the Beatles of indie music." I cocked an eyebrow. This was before I was an Of Montreal fan, and like most music listeners, I was highly skeptical of any band's comparison to The Beatles. The words were slightly more convincing after hearing of Montreal's eighth and ninth albums, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and Skeletal Lamping, both of which are premiere tongue-in-cheek indie pop. But however respected Of Montreal are in the indie scene, there is hardly a comparison to the most important group in rock history. Of Montreal may be influenced by The Beatles, but they are not a reincarnation of the Liverpool geniuses. That being said, any music collection that lacks the Georgian (the state, not the country) group is rather like a burger without condiments: tasteless.

Eccentric and whimsical, playful and flamboyant, of Montreal are a host of adjectives that can never fully represent the band. Emerging in a psychedelic pop scene that included The Olivia Tremor Control, The Apples in Stereo, and Elf Power (all in the influential band collective Elephant 6), Of Montreal never quite sounded like any of their peers. And as their sense of pop music has matured over the course of 10 albums, they have continued an evolution towards a unique style that mixes funk, psychedelia, electronica, 60's pop, R&B, and a hundred other genres (in fact, 2010's critically renowned experimental R&B artist Janelle Monae is featured on two tracks on False Priest). There really is no way to accurately describe the Athens band in one review, let alone one paragraph.

And so False Priest is born. It subtracts many of the electronic influences that the band had employed since The Sunlandic Twins, adds Satanic Panic's Sgt. Pepper's sounds, and combines the different types of experimentalism on Hissing Fauna and Skeletal Lamping; the result is Of Montreal's most homogenous release. The songs on False Priest extend motifs (both musical and lyrical) that continue throughout the entire release. There are upsides and downsides to this strategy; among the former, the album feels coherent and listenable from front to back. However, this backfires on Of Montreal slightly, because one of their greatest strengths throughout their career has been their ability to create albums that feel like adventures. You simply cannot predict what the rest of the songs will sound like by listening to one or two. Perhaps False Priest is an example of a band finally discovering their sound after nearly a dozen albums. Or perhaps their next album will shock us all.

In any case, False Priest runs on three types of fuel: sex (a frequent subject in Of Montreal songs, if you haven't listened to them before), drugs (the band always has a touch of 'shrooms in their art), and break-ups. In other words, they are the perfect band for liberal arts majors. First, the sex: it comes in large doses. The word itself is used in a few song titles; "Sex Karma" is one giant erection, featuring lyrics like "I know that you want to scream/ run and touch my everything/ 'cause I look like a playground to you" and "I'll kiss you where I shouldn't be." Most other bands couldn't get away with being this horny unless they were writing hip-hop music, yet Of Montreal write a song about coquetry ("Coquet Coquette," the verb and noun form of a synonym of "flirt") where lead singer Kevin Barnes sings "my teenage lust for you is so pitiful." Hell, at least he admits it. In fact, Of Montreal's uncensored honesty is one of their greatest strengths. "I Feel Ya Strutter," the album's opener, is a literary lovesong of the highest order, name-dropping "varna, "Brahmins," and "frontal lobe regression" in between lyrics like "I'm still way erect for you." Wow, just... wow.

And then there are the drugs, occasionally mixed with the sex. "Godly Intersex" mixes lyrics of lust with references to everybody being "stoned about you," while "Girl Named Hello" describes doing "a line with a girl named hello." Drugs and sex, of course, lead only to one certainty: heartache. "Our Riotous Defects" describes a nutcase of a girlfriend who kills the guy's fish to get revenge; "Like a Tourist" and the last third of the album deal with break-ups in the vein of "you've ruined me; you're a terrorist" in "Casualty of You."  These guys obviously live life to the fullest.

Thus, False Priest is a high-dose mix of the emotional highs and lows of regular life, and it all comes together on two tracks: "Enemy Gene" and "You Do Mutilate?" The former is midtempo, straightforward pop masterpiece that criticizes modern culture, asking questions like "love breaks the machine, everything's half a dream, how can it be?" over dreamy beats. It evokes the aforementioned Beatles more than anything else on the record. Finally, the 7-minute "You Do Mutilate?" is an epic medley that crafts a seamless fusion of the rest of False Priest. Sex ("we tried to isolate xx infinite pleasure xy"), drugs ("I tried to get you drunk"), heartbreak ("I'm in a war with this suicidal depression"), and anti-religion philosophy ("If you think some prophet's words are more important than your brother and your sister / you're ill and you're wrong") are all present, and make for an satisfying ending to a highly listenable album. It is not perfect, but it is one of the highlights of the band's career, and it is additionally one of the most interesting releases of 2010.

1. I Feel Ya Strutter
2. Our Riotous Defects
3. Coquet Coquette
4. Godly Intersex
5. Enemy Gene
6. Hydra Fancies
7. Like a Tourist
8. Sex Karma
9. Girl Named Hello
10. Famine Affair
11. Casualty of You
12. Around the Way
13. You Do Mutilate?

of Montreal is an indie pop band which formed in Athens, Georgia, United States in 1997. The band is fronted by Kevin Barnes, who writes, composes, and plays most of the music for his albums.

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