Sammy the Seal

“Is that too much to ask?”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 7 February, 2012 at 15:41

Song: Cato As A Pun
Artist: Of Montreal
Album: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

I admit I gave this short shrift, sort of, back in 2006/7. When I lived in New York, I worked a few blocks from Union Square, with a Virgin Megastore at the south end (14th St?). I remember passing this album on the wall there many times, it having recently come out and I having heard good things about it, though I had no idea who they were. However, I was quite turned off by the nonsensical album and song titles. I don’t know, that kind of absurdist stuff rubs me wrong. At best, it’s arcane, at worst, it’s self-indulgent and willfully weird. I actually gave it a go at the listening station, but probably didn’t make it 10 or 15 seconds, obtuse title prejudice and all. Which is a shame, because the music itself is rather accessible, and the lyrics are very direct and ugly, inspired by a very depressing year for Kevin Barnes. Marital separation, you know.

Rather than choose a happy, bouncy song with depressing themes (this album actually has a fantastically shiny one), I went with more dour and subdued with depressing themes. It should be said, there is little moping, musically, to be found on the album, especially given the subject matter. This song is a nice change from the brighter sound they’re known for, that I’ve heard anyway. (“Of Montreal? OMG, I heart them!” Read: “Um, I haven’t really heard their other stuff, but I really like ‘Requiem For O.M.M.2’!” I don’t mean to be a bitch, I just dislike cute hyperbole and exaggeration masking themselves as enthusiasm that seems so pervasively to pass for expression these days. It feels uncreative and banal.)

And yet, this is likely the moodiest the album gets, given the topic (the lyrics are clear and straight enough to hear as you go, so use your ears). Anyone can plaintively strum and sing about their feelings, but it’s always a marvel when introspection is carried out with such creativity and spark. Despite the wallowing (boy, is there), there is no musical (and, to some extent, emotional) stagnation. It’s spare, yet rich. I quite like this, it sounds like it’d be good for those “I’m down/moody and I don’t really know why” states of mind that pop up now and again, for those of us with issues. It’s serious, but you’ve got your typical OM harmonies, plus good rhythm, melody (surprisingly good for sing-along), and dynamics. I think it’s actually got a little edge to it. There are always exceptions, but I have always held a special spot in my heart for music that belies the lyrical/emotional content, and vice versa. I’ll always be a sucker for that. My only gripe is that it’s far too short. Only three minutes? I want a fourth!

(Note: abrupt end means the song bleeds into another.)


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