Of Montreal - False Priest
words: Jamie Milton
Of Montreal like to give their listeners mazes to walk through. They then thrive on leading said listeners the wrong way, sending them round towards dead ends and leaving them in a confused heap. I’m not just basing this on previous album ‘Skeletal Lamping’, where songs were comprised of hundreds of pre-constructed 30 second parts and thrown in together, leaving an album with no coherency, no vital meaning or trail of thought. This more applies to ‘False Priest’, where Kevin Barnes retains the alter-ego of sex-maniac Georgie Fruit to project his voice through;where Barnes and co. are thought to be “channelling” R ‘n B influences; where soul artists Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles - the unlikeliest of friends, one probably used to think - feature over the course of three songs. This album is ridden with distractions and ploys to make the listener turn their head, seemingly. I suppose it’s all part of an elaborate test to see whether listeners can see through the façade, then to discover an album that’s resoundingly dark and emotionally terrifying.
It appears to stare right into your gormless eyes:
‘Casualty Of You’: Barnes at a loss, piano softly chiming, the words “You’ve ruined me, you’re a terroist, I’m a casualty of you” echoing the chamber walls. ‘Famine Affair' kicks its legs at an undefined person or drug, “You marginalize me, you sabotage me - go away, go away, go away” hurls a hesistant, reluctant Barnes, afraid of kicking the habit. 'You Do Mutilate?’'s closing verse, “Now I know I'm not allowed to show the pain / Not allowed to expose the pain”, 'Girl Named Hello”s raw repetition of doing lines of coke; emotional and physical self-harm. And then this:
”I was running back to school, the whole time trying to keep my parents together. And through their chaos there was such pressure to score high. So I had to drop it - as if I stood a chance after my uncle’s suicide, everybody looking at me to succeed him as the family’s golden myth, while all my identity, mutations were being dosed by books and all the drugs I took to prove I was brave, but I was so afraid of the death without pleasure; you are my greatest treasure.”
’Godly Intersex”s second verse. The closest I’ve heard to a nervous breakdown on record. It’s all, most likely, part of Barnes’ theatrics. Falsified, dramatised or whatever, it’s extremely striking. You get the sense that the get-up, pop blasts of ‘Sex Karma' and opener 'I Feel Ya Strutter' are purposeful interferences in the stream of deep, comedown depression; providing a pleasant contrast.
We ought not to focus solely on the emotional content of the record. The musicianship on ‘False Priest' fits the mood for every song. The aforementioned 'Godly Interesex' is what it is because of the pent-up, tense mood that accompanies the haunting verses. 'Hydra Fancies' blends sugar-sweet innocence with psychedelic structural changes and melancholic reprisals. Barnes rarely strays from the centre of the stage but every instrumental burst is as intriguing as some of his melodrama.
Were ‘False Priest’ solely relying on smart songwriting and some snappy bass solos however, it wouldn’t be quite as special an album. I’ve thought time and time again about this album and I’ve come to the gradual conclusion the I could be making this all up. Maybe ‘False Priest’ really is a simple, R ‘n B indebted sex-fest, with little substance elsewhere. But I like to imagine this to be the sound of Kevin Barnes exposing his darkest thoughts - he is after all, the most fascinating of front-men. A little imagination never hurt anybody. Think of this as the spine-chilling account of sex, drugs, ruined relationships, wrecked families and neurosis that I’ve described above and you’ll find the most engrossing album of the year. I promise.