Of Montreal's eighth album, released in January of 2007, is my favorite break-up album of all time. Yes, For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver and Sea Changes by Beck might be better all around albums, at least in my rankings, but neither quite capture that darkness and temporary insanity that a slightly imbalanced individual like myself and many others have felt. Who would have thought that it would take frenetic synth pop to so accurately capture those emotions?
A vast departure from their psychedelic pop sound on previous records, Hissing Fauna is a... different kind of concept album from the twisted mind of Kevin Barnes. The album marks the first appearance of Georgie Fruit, Kevin's alter ego. During the intense 12 minute "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" track, Barnes transforms into Georgie, a black man in his last 40's who has undergone multiple sex changes. This transsexual alter ego represented an entire genre shift for the band and one that ultimately made them must-listen-to music, not to mention a band that you've got to see live. If you think the alter ego sounds bizarre, step into one of their shows for 20 minutes and be prepared to get real weird.
The first half of the album, before the transformation, is a descent into that post break-up madness I mentioned earlier. Dark lines on depression, pain, insanity and drug use are accompanied by loud synth and almost sickeningly joyful melodies. It is all so catchy and upbeat, yet lyrically about as morose and insane as it gets. Listening to these tracks gives you such an uncomfortable feeling, yet oddly pleasant in its discomfort. "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" is my favorite track on the album, that mixture of insanity and melody coming to a perfect head just before Barnes' transformation in the next song. I can't ever just listen to my favorite songs off the record, though, it's either the whole thing or none at all. Even though that is how concept albums are designed, not many actually make me feel that way, but for Hissing Fauna the sum is so much greater than all of its parts you must.
After Georgie Fruit has replaced Kevin Barnes, the break-up songs are replaced by sex jams as he tries to slut his way out of the deep hole Kevin was in. Confused and crazed, Georgie describes new male and female interests weaved throughout a wonderful new sound that I guess only Georgie could bring to Of Montreal. No matter how strange all of this might seem, you can't deny how relentlessly fascinating it sounds. Absolutely worth a listen even if you are not a fan of pop music, this album is not to be missed.
- "Suffer for Fashion" – 2:59
- "Sink the Seine" – 1:04
- "Cato as a Pun" – 3:02
- "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" – 3:18
- "Gronlandic Edit" – 3:24
- "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" – 4:54
- "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" – 11:52
- "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" – 3:51
- "Faberge Falls for Shuggie" – 4:31
- "Labyrinthian Pomp" – 3:21
- "She's a Rejecter" – 4:02
- "We Were Born the Mutants Again with Leafling" – 4:57