of montreal false priest
    • THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2010

    • Posted by: Peter Menniti

    False Priest may be Of Montreal's fourth album, but it's only the first time they have actually stepped into a real, professional studio to record. The band (mostly Kevin Barnes for studio purposes) apparently took to its new environment, because it has delivered a record that takes full advantage of it without sounding terribly over-produced and that stays true to the band's unique style.

    The songs on False Priest are all very densely arranged and come at the listener with a rushing wall of sound. It gets a bit overbearing at some points, but in the overwhelming majority of cases it gives the tracks a great loud, punchy sound. The band covers a lot of sonic ground, incorporating rock and funk guitars, electro-poppy synths, live string sections, and both live and programmed drums and basslines. The whole affair is usually topped off by Kevin Barnes' falsetto, and (unlike all too many dance-rock bands) the vocals aren't washed out with too much reverb and delay and punch through the mix nicely. Janelle Monae contributes vocals to "Our Riotous Defects" and "Enemy Gene," and Solange Knowles (Beyonce's sister) to "Sex Karma." Their parts are a nice touch, although they get a bit lost in the noise with so much else going on.

    Despite the new production touches, this is still most definitely an Of Montreal album, and retains all the songwriting quirks that define Of Montreal's sound. Firstly, there's the spastic manner in which the whole affair unfolds. All the songs have a jumpy, jittery vibe and the changes between songs or between sections are oftentimes somewhat jarring. This has been a feature of Of Montreal's past work and is largely responsible for the group's uniquely energetic sound. It's not exactly my thing, but if you're a fan, Of Montreal's high-speed grooves and choppy songwriting capture that cracked-out energy like no one else.

    Then, there's the sometimes unwieldy wordplay. Barnes has a propensity to use big words (like propensity, for example) that, while clever, don't sit particularly well as song lyrics. Lines like, "I'll have zero pleasure until you excuse me from your archetype" ("Enemy Gene") and "Sometimes I feel like I'm in a flight simulator/crashing the birth of any potential memory" ("I Feel Ya'Strutter") stick out like a sore thumb, however well-delivered they are. There are plenty of less egregious examples to go around as well - this is another of Montreal signature, but... not generally a good one. You can't dance to lyrics, though, so it's far from a crippling flaw.

    Other than the occasionally heavy-handed lyrics, there's not a whole lot of bad things to say about this album. If you liked Of Montreal's past efforts, False Priest is better; if you've never heard them, here's a good place to start listening. -peter menniti

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