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Of Montreal: Skeletal Lamping


Of Montreal

Album: Skeletal Lamping
Label: Polyvinyl

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As the title suggests, Of Montreal's latest finds Kevin Barnes shining a light on the skeletons in his closet, and as expected, they come out to dance all over Skeletal Lamping. There's the inner queer, the outward straight, the hopeless romantic, and the backward bondage freak, along with Barnes' heretofore closeted white rapper, as well as alter ego Georgie Fruit, a fortysomething transsexual black soul singer. Much will be made of this album's overt sexuality (filled with lines like, "Lover-face, I want to make you ejaculate until it's no longer fun"), but the subject matter isn't surprising, especially after Mr. Fruit let the banana out of the basket in Las Vegas last year. What's truly at stake here is identity. Last time, Barnes documented his mental breakdown; in Lamping, he pours his mixed-up marbles onto the table to take stock. Naturally, the music is tailor-made for such insanity.

"Nonpareil Of Favor" opens the album with baroque harpsichord while Barnes croons like a Marc Bolan prone to Queen-y histrionics. A minute later, he and the band are aping OutKast's "Hey Ya!", then Sgt. Pepper's, then arena rock, and finally No Age, with a massive wall of guitar that crests over a lazy groove. "Wicked Wisdom" comes next, wherein Barnes yelps like Prince, transmutes into Georgie ("I'm just a black she-male / and I don't know what you people are all about / chalky people"), and does Hot Chip almost better than Hot Chip. Most songs start with a barrage of mini movements, find aural stasis, then give in to stylistic onslaught. It's physically tiring at times, but immaculately arranged. That's less true of Barnes' lyrics. While his words are lysergically colorful and often poetic, any greater meaning is dissolved in an acid bath of too much information. Lamping has its salient moments, but after nine albums and having seen Barnes' private bits, it'd be nice to get to know the guy a little better.