Of Montreal, an indie band from Athens, Ga., has made a name for itself by mixing esoteric chamber pop with personal and introspective lyrics. However, on the band’s latest work, Paralytic Stalks, it has gone too far, leaving an album that confuses and disappoints more than it provokes.
Paralytic Stalks opens with “Gelid Ascent,” which sadly proves to be one of the better songs on the album. It begins with frontman Kevin Barnes’ vocals, bubbling up from underneath layers of heavy reverberation, followed by an explosion of sound that feels like the first gulp of air after a few panicked minutes underwater. “Gelid Ascent” mimics the giants of ’60s and ’70s prog-rock with soaring guitars and troubling synth chords that match the unease in Barnes’ lyrics.
For the most part, the rest of the album is unable to keep up with the standard set by its first song. “Spiteful Intervention” spirals through drum fills, piano riffs and a backup chorus that amount to little more than a failed attempt at pessimistic and analytical pysch-pop. One of the main downfalls ofParalytic Stalks is a penchant for academic yet nonsensical lyricism. Indie rock arguably gained much of its success from songs with archaic and obscure writing that harkened back to the Victorian era.
Unfortunately, of Montreal misses the mark this time, instead writing lyrics that might as well be from the journal of an angst-ridden — albeit brainy — teenager.
Throughout the album, the listener plays psychoanalyst to Barnes’ wandering descriptions of trust issues, paranoia and estrangement from his parents. Using techniques like call and response falsetto harmonies that sound similar to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” of Montreal attempts to delve into the dark side of the human psyche, only to bounce to something completely different in a display of scatter-brained stream of consciousness that bypasses creativity completely.
The last four tracks of the album are excruciating. Tortuous guitar solos drag on only to be cut off without resolution, and the songs each clock in at upwards of seven minutes, making for a baffling 37 minutes of noise. Sadly, Barnes’ attempts at intimate and dark music become frustrating and signal that it may be time for of Montreal to move on from the sound for which they have become so well known.