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'Skeletal Lamping' Podcast

Rajesh Srinivasan discusses of Montreal's latest release, Skeletal Lamping.

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If you were expecting of Montreal's latest to be Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Pt. 2, don't hold your breath. Sure, Kevin Barnes and company fully realize the whiteboy funk-pop fusion they started in cuts like "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" on Skeletal Lamping, but the fanciful album is a semi-logical continuation of the brutal, cohesive Hissing Fauna rather than its copy. Barnes has replaced pain-stricken lyrics with heavy sexual imagery and the unified sound with sudden voltas and clashing elements, and he has made Skeletal Lamping a grand spectacle, one of Montreal's greatest-and admittedly, frustrating-works to date.

The frustration stems from two sources. The first was Barnes' decision not to pay attention to transitions within or between his chameleonic songs. This works in "Wicked Wisdom," but it usually ends up sounding arbitrary. Worse is the over-the-top sexuality. While the subtle innuendo and sexual frustration of Hissing Fauna were effective and clever, come-ons like "We can do it softcore if you want / But you should know I take it both ways" are here just for shock value.

Skeletal Lamping was intended to be jolting, but it succeeds because of the band's trademarks: bright melodies sung in Barnes' catchy whine and scattershot lush instrumentation. The album proves Barnes can dabble in many moods and styles. Even when he occasionally goes simple-like in erudite the piano ballad "Touched Something's Hollow"-he executes it as easily as he does the typical "Plastis Wafer" or dreamy "Nonpareil of Favor." That's not surprising, either: Barnes is one of pop's melodic savants, and only once does he falter on the overly repetitive "Gallery Piece." And aside from lacking lyricism and transitional troubles, he has created another savvy record, if only because of his basic musical sensibilities rather than his experimentalism.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

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