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Review: of Montreal’s ‘Paralytic Stalks’

Photo by Patrick Heagney

Paralytic Stalks, the 11th album from Georgia-based of Montreal, was recorded in the home studio of frontman Kevin Barnes and later mixed at Chase Park Transduction with help from Drew Vandenberg. The nine-track, hour-long album is set to release Feb. 7, less than two years after 2010’s False Priest.

In a recent interview with Spin, Barnes shared, “With this record, I’m not really trying to be commercial, I’m trying to be expressive. The fact that it’s in no way commercial didn’t cheapen in it my mind. If anything it made me feel better about it because it made me feel like this is a statement. It’s coming from a really pure place.”

This truth is evident from the beginning of the record.

The kaleidoscope of pop, neo-psychedelia and rock we are used to viewing the band through is not present. Or perhaps it’s still there in the way of reflection. If the albums that mark of Montreal’s past are funhouse mirrors, Paralytics Stalks is a tall, standalone mirror.

The album is reflective — of a new direction in music for the seasoned band, the good and bad of Barnes’ psyche, religious faith, and existence, something that perplexes us all. This work, if anything, reflects a truer, whole representation of Barnes: sensitive as seen in “Malefic Dowery;” creatively fearless as evident in tracks “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff” and “Exorcismic Breeding Knife?;” optimistic in “Gelid Ascent” and “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission;” and self aware in “Spiteful Intervention,” “Dour Percentage” and “We Will Commit Wolf Murder.

The album took me on a deep and dark journey that I wasn’t prepared to go on. Barnes sings the listener down a road of manic music that seems unsure of where it’s headed. As he admits to David Bevan of Spin, “‘Ye, Renew the Plaintiff’…feels like maybe four or five different songs.” The multi-dimension found in many of the tracks is almost overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost, as some of the songs seem directionless, whether intentional or not.

When the music gets too chaotic and haunting, the lyrics are present to tidy up and offer a calm. And when Barnes reveals his untamed and sometimes-barbaric thoughts, the music is there to restrain.

My interpretation of this album shows in what I created while I listened to it. There are two sides – optimism and pessimism. And at the core of it all is the belief that “Phenomena” are “not found in framework.”

Pre-order Paralytic Stalks through Polyvinyl Records.

Of Montreal will tour the States Feb. 17 through April 7, with support from Kishi Bashi, Cults, Deerhoof, Loney Dear, Hard Nips and Computer Magic.

Catch the band live in Tucson on March 19 at Rialto Theatre with Deerhoof and Kishi Bashi.  Click here for a complete list of tour dates.


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