…And Something Old: Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

It’s no secret that I love writing about music, and that I fancy myself a journalist of sorts. However, I’ve come to realize that most of music journalism is writing about the current: it’s all about the newest of the new, until the end of the year rolls around, and you talk about the best of the gently used, and promptly forget it all until a band puts out a new album to be scrutinized and told “I liked the last one better!” It seems to me that critics don’t have the time to reflect on the music that really stuck, nevermind how good it was.

Thus, I have decided to go back and listen to the albums I once held extremely dear, the albums that went on repeat for days (or weeks) on end, the albums that I’ll force my kids listen to on long car rides. And there are few better albums to begin a (likely long) series of introspective musings with than of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? cover
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Originally released: January ’07

I first listened to Hissing Fauna when it was first released back in ’07, and was immediately blown away. I found myself rabid for it, unable to listen to another album for two weeks straight: there was no escaping it. And now, two years later, it’s not hard to understand why I liked it so much.

The first song on the album, “Suffer for Fashion,” begins with a short, but telling, lyric: “We just want to emote until we’re dead.” You can call Barnes a whiner if you so please, because albums such as this may very well make him one, but one thing you can’t say is that he isn’t dignified about it.

Listening to Hissing Fauna for the first time in about a year, it doesn’t feel like I ever left. Kevin Barnes’ dark introspection set to disco never grows tiresome, even in during the album’s centerpiece, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” clocking in at 12 minutes long. Barnes rarely truly strays from his half-sing on the track, where he almost completely strips down the pop façade and bares everything he has, with lyrics such as “It’s embarrassing to need someone like I do you,” and But it’s like we weren’t made for this world/Though I wouldn’t really want to meet someone who was.” Of Montreal is a party band, there is no doubt about that, but when Barnes decides to spread his wings, as he does on “Grotesque Animal,” it’s hard to imagine him doing anything but songs of the same caliber.

However, the charm of the album is not only how personal it is, but the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the music. What better to set a stanza like “I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god/But which one, which one do I choose?/All the churches fill with losers, psycho or confused/I just want to hold the divine in mind” to than a funky bass line? What better to lay over a quiet groove than “Are you far too depressed now even to answer the phone? I guess you just want to shave your head, have a drink, and be left alone. (Is that too much to ask?)”

The album is not without its fun, though. Tracks like “She’s a Rejector” still have me singing (or rather screaming, at points) along, and I have yet to get over “With a crisp endorsement from the C! (C!) A! (A!) Booty Patrol!” Of Montreal, to me, is proof that disco is not only still alive, but well enough to give anybody a swift kick in the genitals, and this is the album that helped me realize that it’s not the worst thing in the world to piss and moan on record, especially if you dress it up in neon and spandex.

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