Of Montreal's Concept Pop

Of Montreal's Concept Pop
One thing Kevin Barnes can't be accused of is lacking imagination. The Of Montreal songwriter has created everything from sunny, sugar-pop songs recorded on a tape deck bedecked with labyrinthine lyrics based on grand conceptual themes to the hulking, schizophrenic funk-addled therapeutic exercise that was 2007’s Hissing Fuana, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal’s latest, Skeletal Lamping, is built on the funk pop foundations that emerged in the latter half of Hissing Fauna, although a new vocal tic Barnes has developed suggests another influence. "I love Curtis Mayfield,” he says. "I was definitely using his scream a lot on this album — probably overusing it.” Barnes delves further into themes of sexuality that began in earnest with Hissing Fauna; on Skeletal Lamping, he channels the psyche of Georgie Fruit, an alter ego of sorts Barnes first made reference to when discussing Hissing Fauna.

Barnes describes Fruit as a black man who’s had several sex change operations and used to be in an Ohio Players type band. "I don't really try to separate him from Kevin Barnes,” he says. "He’s more of a songwriting device.” Like Hissing Fauna, Skeletal Lamping could be accused of having an identity crisis; perhaps even calling it an album is a misnomer. After the first few tracks, the album strays dramatically from traditional song territory, featuring chopped up permutations of laptop beats, funk bass lines, ceiling-scraping falsettos and the spacey psychedelic flourishes — closer to a DJ set than an album proper, a characterization that Barnes acknowledges. "Well, it’s certainly not intentional, but I definitely get what you’re saying.” Despite Of Montreal’s evolution and stylistic shifts, central to the identity of any Barnes-penned album is maintaining his sharp pop sensibility. And that isn't going to change anytime soon.