Music Reviews
Skeletal Lamping

Of Montreal Skeletal Lamping

(Polyvinyl Records) Rating - 6/10

I’m not a trained psychologist, but in my professional opinion, Skeletal Lamping is not the product of a stable mind. I’ve been following Kevin Barnes for a while now and while I’ve always admired his peculiar kind of, alright I’ll say it, genius, I’ve simultaneously felt that he suffered from a nagging restlessness. This shouldn’t surprise anybody that listens to the music of Of Montreal; it’s likely part of their appeal. Many artists are compared to Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson, but few if any could write a piano ballad as lyrical as It’s Just So, or a fractured pop song as counter intuitively cohesive as Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse. He is genuinely tied to a tradition of disturbed, brilliant artists that fought their demons in the public eye. I don’t know much about Barnes’ personal life, outside of a few stray comments he has made betraying certain neuroses, but it’s possible that Lamping may turn out to be his most personal statement, even more so than his previous album loaded down with autobiographical material. That’s because more than any other work he’s done recently it reveals a staggeringly creative mind that cannot settle down for even the length of a 3 minute pop song. You can conclude that the failure of this album to really connect is due to the overwhelming demands made on the listener, or you can lay the blame, as I do, right at the artist’s feet. 

What’s becoming increasingly clear is that Barnes doesn’t want to be Brian Wilson anyway; he’d much rather be James Brown. He has absorbed so many of his influences and has melded them so uniquely that there is no mistaking his sound, but the genre that has dominated his later work is disco/funk. It’s on his funky tunes where he seems to morph into a more confident person, a white and nerdy sex god. St. Exquisite’s Confessions is indicative of both his ultra-smooth persona and his disjointed personality. Likewise Gallery Piece, with its space drums by Meco, must be in heavy rotation in clubs on Mars. Not that he has abandoned the sixties. And I’ve Seen a Bloody Shadow sounds like a Stones song right off of Satanic Majesties. The problem is that now more than ever Barnes is all over the place and all the fragments don’t add up to much and they certainly don’t go anywhere. Everything is left hanging and unresolved, which probably captures his thought process perfectly, but leaves the listener wanting more. The whole thing seems to float in the air, defying gravity, laughing at the laws of nature, and therefore presenting itself to mere mortals as something alien and freakish.
I don’t really think I’m out on a limb questioning Barnes’ sanity. Just hop on the internet to check out a couple of tour photos. Skeletal Lamping is the brain dump of a troubled psyche, and you shouldn’t feel too bad if you ultimately don’t get it. I don’t think you’re supposed to.