Being in a band known for making euphorically happy music poses unique problems. For example, how do you respond musically to a divorce? This is exactly what recently befell Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes. His answer to the conundrum was to make an album with even more delightful sounding music than usual to juxtapose dark, angry lyrics. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best things he’s ever done in his long, prolific career.
Of Montreal’s latest album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is laced with Barnes’ misery at the cruel hand fate dealt him, but is also triumphant. It’s an odd contradiction for an album to embody, but it works incredibly well.
Making sure every song is an insanely intricate, danceable nugget of pop gold, Barnes sets out on a cathartic adventure. Candidly discussing his depression, lambasting his ex-wife and hinting at substance abuse, he doesn’t hide an inch of himself.
This process can be a bit overwhelming, but fortunately Barnes makes sure the whole album isn’t doom and gloom. On “Heimdalsgate like a Promethean Curse” he pleads with his mood to get out of the gutter, and after the 12-minute bitch session “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” he devotes most of the remaining album to making sure this happens. It’s impossible not to smile when he regains his swagger with the lines “Eva, I am sorry / But you will never have me / To me you’re just some faggy girl / And I need a lover with soul-power.”
When Barnes’ epic release finally comes to a close it’s an exhausting, exhilarating experience and an undeniable success.