Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Polyvinyl

On this year's list of proposals to the 33 1/3 Continuum series of paperback books based on canonical LPs, there are innumerable no-brainers: AC/DC's Back in Black, Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out, and Miles Davis's Bitches Brew, for instance. Tucked amid such entries is Of Montreal's eighth album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?. It's a curious suggestion, for the record was released a scant two weeks before the submissions deadline, and among the lengthy discography of frontman Kevin Barnes and his Athens, Georgia, cohorts, 2005's Sunlandic Twins is surely more representative of the band's Elephant 6-based roots and well-worn psychedelia.

And yet the story behind Of Montreal's most mature work to date would make for a meaty book topic. Rather than continuing to ply his quirky character studies, Hissing Fauna finds Barnes meditating on the turbulence of his own life. It's been a source of rich material; first-time fatherhood, marital strife, and a bout of depression worthy of Beckett endured out on the Norwegian tundra are all presented here, along with a heaping helping of bitterness.

Opener "Suffer for Fashion" hinges on Barnes bitterly sneering "forever" over a taut and compressed keyboard line. As of late, the band's obsession with glam's garish surfaces has come to the fore; its edges are sharper and more jagged, like self-reflection rendered on a compact's shattered mirror. Claustrophobic, fretful, and manic throughout, the album's centerpiece is the furious "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal," an incensed, canned-beat concoction that fuels 12 minutes of shrill venting. The penultimate track, "She's a Rejector," is perhaps perfect for the shortlist; the "she" refers to Barnes's once-estranged wife, and in light of the couple's reconciliation, it too is slightly presumptuous.

 
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