Innocence Reaches

of Montreal

Polyvinyl, 2016

http://www.ofmontreal.net

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/08/2016

Influences on Of Montreal main man Kevin Barnes don't get much bigger than David Bowie and Prince. I don't know the man, so I can't say for sure whether the death of two of his idols affected the music of this album, but it's certainly possible. At the very least, trying to pay tribute to two wildly different artists would help explain why this record is so weirdly all over the place. Some songs sound like a full guitar-led band played them; others are nothing but electronics, sounding like one guy noodling alone in his bedroom. The album is a mess. This sort of thing wouldn't have been a problem for some bands, and maybe the Of Montreal from five or six albums ago would have been able to handle it deftly. But sadly, at this point in the band's career, the unfortunate truth is that their songwriting quality has all but bottomed out. They just aren't what they used to be.

There are highlights here, don't get me wrong. They just aren't big ones. “Gratuitous Abysses” is total classic Bowie all the way and probably the best track on the album since it has some good vocal parts and it rocks out pretty hard. But being surrounded by a bunch of electro-pop tunes makes it pretty jarring. “Le Chants De Maldoror” is similar, but more gutless. It wants to rock out, but keeps falling victim to less interesting ideas. Like, what's that guitar solo supposed to be? It just goes between a handful of random notes and barely sounds like it's even supposed to be there.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“It's Different For Girls” is reasonably memorable, albeit pretty by the book for the band. When compared to the hook-fests that the band's lead singles used to be, it doesn't measure up, but it's likable enough. “My Fair Lady” is another one of the better tracks, with a chorus that goes to unexpected places like much of their best work tends to. However, the beat is oddly bland and the verses are nondescript. The fact that it's a highlight on this record says more about the overall quality of the album than it does about the song.

Meanwhile, “A Sport And A Pastime” is horrendous. As Barnes chants uncreative lines about “wanting to be yours,” hideous trap high-hats and claps click around in your ears. Then, ugly arpeggiated synth and vocal samples pop in at random. The song sounds like Barnes downloaded a default EDM music set and decided that the first thing he made with it should be released as a complete song. The chorus tries to get by via repeated pitch-shifted lines at different rhythms, but it just comes across as annoying as hell. “Trashed Exes” is similar but it might be even more ugly. It's significantly more engaging melodically, which kind of saves it, though it doesn't exactly make it much more enjoyable. Odd synth pitches blurting out at random intervals do not make for an engaging rhythm track. Some of these weird electronic elements pop up on the other songs, and I don't like it on those either, but it's never quite as egregious as it is on these two. Of Montreal has tackled this electronic-pop approach with so much success in the past. It's disheartening to hear them flop in an area they used to be so good at.

“Def Pacts” tries to function as a hybrid of some of the band's various styles, but it ends up only being interesting because it slows down and speeds up depending on what section it's in. “Chaos Arpeggiating” is one of the more rock-styled tunes. I like the main riff it's got, but like a bunch of the other songs on the record, it hurts itself with unexpected turns that halt the flow instead of enhancing it.

Of Montreal albums used to feel like every note was there to bolster the songwriting. Whether it was with synths or guitars, they were always pushing their music to new levels of memorability, and when their songs took surprising turns, it was always from one interesting place to another. But recent Of Montreal albums have just gotten tedious, dropping the catchy tunes in the process. Innocence Reaches sadly exemplifies just how mediocre this band's records have become.

Rating: C

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