By Bill Ross
If David Bowie experienced drug-induced psychosis, it would sound like Paralytic Stalks. Delving deep into the tribulations of love and family, of Montreal has returned with its eleventh full-length album, devising a new brand of sinister psychedelia-pop. Frontman Kevin Barnes takes us on a journey through his complex web of relationships and memories, channeling enigmatic performers like Bowie, Elliott Smith, and Wayne Coyne to construct a terrifying duality of glamorous art-rock and paranoid schizophrenia.
Paralytic Stalks explores the psychotic breakdown of a pessimistic, self-loathing narrator with a grudge against pretty much everybody around him. “Gelid Ascent” begins with an ominous voice that initiates Barnes’ paranoia, declaring, “You’re an irrelevant effect/ Unavoidable, but of low influence.” Following this creepy episode, Barnes wavers between insane ramblings and conscious contemplations. He proves to be both rational and cynical in “Spiteful Interventions,” likening others’ kindness and optimism as ignorant condescension while acknowledging his tendency to alienate loved ones with uncontrollable callousness.
But frustrated dejection soon turn to pleading desperation as our narrator prays for answers from his closest confidant. “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” begins Barnes’ disquieting focus on wife Nina, first praising her as “the only beauty I don’t want to strangle,” but later revealing her (perceived) betrayal with the claim, “I saw you laughing but tomorrow you’ll say you were there/ You looked at me in disgust/ Girl, why should I care?” His agitation increases in “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff,” where he recognizes and proclaims his impending break from reality. “Oh Nina, my whole system is chaos/ I’m desperate for something but there’s no human word for it/ I should be happy, but what I feel is corrupted, broken, impotent, and insane.” Barnes continues to devolve, but you can listen to the rest of that for yourself — no spoilers here!
Apart from the inventive manic-depressive lyrics, the musical construction transcends all modern-day noise experimentation. of Montreal places David Bowie’s artful psych-folk (“Dour Percentage”) and Elliott Smith’s haunting melancholy (“Wintered Debts”) into a sonic landscape of deranged frenzy, crafting repetitive electronic arpeggios and scatterbrained fusions of divergent genres. Altogether, Paralytic Stalks brings neo-psychedelia to a fascinating new ingenious level of maniacal introversion.
Make sure to download Of Montreal tracks for free courtesy of Epitonic!