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Sam Hope reviews the latest album by psychpop outfit ‘of Montreal’
On “UR FUN”, of Montreal break away from their psychedelic roots to venture into 80s revival with mixed results.
Very much taking the role of “your favourite band’s favourite band” within indie circles, it’s hard to overestimate how important of Montreal has been in resurrecting the sounds and aesthetics of psychedelia. With the likes of Tame Impala, MGMT and Mac Demarco basing their sound and image on this revival, you can’t imagine the current nature of indie-pop without its near omnipresence. With seminal works such as Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, they are a band who deserve as much credit as other influential contemporaries such as The Flaming Lips and Animal Collective.
Here, however, the band blend their origins with arguably the most influential force in modern pop: the rebirth of the 80s. Immediately from the cover art for the project alone, adorned with clashing colours and neon writing, you are instantly pulled back to the era of Miami Vice and The Bangles. With every song glittering with features from synthesised keyboards to big snares, this album not only plays on the revival of the era’s culture but its strong bygone origins; several songs here could fit directly into an album from 1985.
This is immediately obvious from the opening track, “Peace to All Freaks”, which sets the tone of the bubble-gum glitziness of all to come. Featuring angelic reminiscent pads broken up by crashing gated reverb snares, it’s difficult not to see it as a modern reimagining of the likes of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield”. The lyrics of the song, however, clash hilariously with its sound, remarking on counterculture anti-capitalist sentiment while surrounded by the peak of consumerist media: ‘The cops were barking up against the wall/ While our hearts were singing, peace to all freaks.’
However, with the constant use of 4 to the floor beats with big snares and leads, as also seen in “Gypsy That Remains” and “St Sebastian”, which belong more on a Yazoo B side collection, this formula becomes tiring, especially in comparison to their ground-breaking past.
A more refreshing element, however, is the continuation of this lyrical kind of punk attitude coming through in a sonic fashion. Continuing from the cover’s partial emulation of Parallel Lines, it extends to taking clear Blondie influences from their fusion of punk structures with synthetic elements. This is mainly seen in the album’s closing track, “20th Century Schizofriendic Revengoid-man”, where chanting lead vocals alongside thrashing guitars and pulsating synths emulate the early 80s beginnings of pop-punk.
However, compared to the excellence seen across their earlier discography, it cannot be ignored that this album is lacking in the genre and era transcending greatness of previous albums. Listening to Hissing Fauna and Sunlandic Twins now nearly 15 years on, they still feel abundantly fresh, contrasting at every turn while still fitting together as cohesive, story-telling concept albums. This, however, acts more like a collection of largely similar songs, gripping you at first listen with catchy hooks and production, but slowly losing its impressiveness as you continue the experience. Knowing the potential of Kevin Barnes at his best, a masterful blender of experimentalism with pop sensibilities, the effect of this album in places falling flat is enhanced. The depth below the initial poppy engagement is severely lacking, remaining at the surface level almost obligatory satisfaction. If you are a fan of 80s revival, this album in places is hugely enjoyable. However, for indie fans looking for a follow-up addition from them to the indie canon, you won’t find it here.