In A Word? No.
Of Montreal’s new album, Aureate Gloom, begins with a big drum crash and a loud swirling guitar. The first thought may be, “Oh, exciting.” Then Kevin Barnes starts singing in a nasally voice, slightly out of tune over a Franz Ferdinand-disco backdrop. The next thought may be, “Maybe he’s just toying with people. Messing around until the good stuff starts.” Then a catchy chorus comes in over muted clavs and picked guitar and one may think, “Now the album is going to start for real!”
Well, Barnes giveth and Barnes taketh away. As soon as the album gets going, it regresses back to the comically bad, the unintentional parody. Every track follows this progression, except for the almost unlistenable “Chthonian Dirge For Uruk The Other” – the highlight of that track being the bubbling distorted noise track interlude, and every track is similarly frustrating. This is an album with brief moments of glory – danceable, funky, catchy – but no one moment is enough to exculpate Aureate Gloom.
The main problem with this album is that Barnes has crafted songs that sound similar to those of other bands, but he consistently fails to execute, leading the music to sound like a cheap, drugged out copy. Consider the vocal delivery on “Estocadas”. Barnes sounds eerily similar to Sam France of Foxygen, but Sam France is able to pull of the bratty Dylan/McJagger vocals in such a way that they sound subversively cool instead of merely annoying (as is the case of Barnes). Or consider album closer “Like Ashoka’s Inferno Of Memory.” About two thirds of the way through the band gets into a nice instrumental interlude that sounds reminiscent of some of Tame Impala’s work. Where Tame Impala succeed — and where Of Montreal fail — is that they have the ability and patience to sustain such interludes until they reach their logical ends. Of Montreal seems to shoehorn a great bit of music into an otherwise bad song.
This is the kind of album that could easily garner a cult following. The latest product from an illustrious band, the bizarre enigmatic lyrics and song titles, the noise tracks clouding a disco backing band, the attitude – it has all the trappings. At a certain point; however, one has to wonder if the vibe can trump the music. It simply seems too irritating to make the leap from “bad” to “misunderstood.” The flashes of greatness don’t help. No, they only serve to illuminate the truly misguided and poorly executed music that dominates the record.