Of Montreal, ‘Skeletal Lamping’ (Polyvinyl)
Three tracks into what may be 2008’s most insane album, Kevin Barnes drops his multiple-entendre manifesto: “We can do it softcore if you want / But you should know I take it both ways.” Forget the porno wink and the lyric becomes an instructional hint for engaging with Skeletal Lamping’s confetti-explosion mess. Softcore: You can eke a ton of pop enjoyment from the silken falsetto melodies, neon-diva harmonies, and loping electro-funk beats, but expect frustration when that sparkly groove deflates into tedious patches of dub. Hardcore: You can strap on your headphones, grab some graph paper, and try deciphering what Barnes intended with this fragmented, infuriating album, not to mention decoding what the hell he means when he calls himself a “black she-male.”
In a cool way, Barnes grapples with a similar choice throughout Skeletal Lamping. Torn between impulses of lusty flirtation and all-consuming commitment, he pleads to be some girl’s “only friend” and then spouts come-ons about role-playing Oedipus Rex.Of Montreal’s best tracks (as on 2007’s devastating Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?) prove Barnes can portray confused desperation without abandoning pop structure, making many of Lamping’s formless detours feel inessential. Basically, the album is a gorgeous tease: Even if you want to go all the way, you’re not sure it’s possible.