Review: Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks

 Since 1996, Of Montreal have been responsible for bestowing fans of less-than-down-to-earth music with a truly unique explosion of psychedelic, poppy and just generally quirky and charming alternative rock, that's never short of a sense of general weirdness and trippiness. This has kept them loved by their fanbase of indie pop enthusiasts and *coughs* hipsters for a long time now, and as they reach their 11th album Paralytic Stalks these fans will be happy to know that this weirdness has gone nowhere, rather gathered up together and forcefully unleashed across this album. If this is a style of music you're less familiar with however, prepare for mass confusion.

 And your sense of delight/confusion will kick in from the moment unsettling opener Gelid Ascent begins with a giant layering of bright synthesizers of the cut up vocals of frontman Kevin Barnes, which sound like they are transferred from a seriously tampered-with tape recorder, before transcending into an array of sparkly indie pop with a hook-infested rhythm to go along with it.
 This rhythmically catchy indie pop is present across the album and reveals a return for the band to the major influence from the more psychedelic and trippy work of The Beatles at many points such as the short-but-sweet Malefic Dowry and the brooding Wintered Debts. The feel good pop rock of Dour Percentage actually takes this late Beatles influence further carrying a joyful reminiscence of the solo material of Paul McCartney.
 But of course, despite all this playful attitude, Paralytic Stalks is by no means an album of fun and games, just like the later work of The Beatles saw the Fab Four trying to create an emotional impact in their music while being as experimental as possible, the Georgian sextet? Possibly septet, or even octet. So many different pictures of the group. They show so many different lineups. And at times the music created here is as confusing as this lineup issue here. Anyway, the Georgian... group of musicians that exceeds the amount of musicians found in an average rock band are as experimental as ever Tracks like Spiteful Intervention and We Will Commit Wolf Murder reveal the intricate manner in which they play and it's likely that on listening back various keyboard parts that weren't heard previously will be found somewhere in the endless wall of electronic elements.
 While this ideal is sometimes charming, at times it is simply downright freaky. These moments at first will seem engagingly chilling, however it's a guarantee that if this off-the-wall style of alt rock is something you are unused to you will find yourself curled up and cowering in a corner during the entirety of Exorcismic Breeding Knife screaming "PLEASE, MAKE IT STOP!!" Plus while the final track Authentic Pyrrhic Remission consists of a very chilled out uplifting array of indie rock and a warm melancholic piano led outro during it's thirteen minute course, listeners are presented with a major obstacle in the middle of these pieces of music in the form of an incredibly uncomfortable synthesizer led section has a familiarity and similar uncomfortable-ness to listening to, to use a cliche, someone dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard. It's simply freaky. It reminds me of Tim & Eric sketch It's Not Jackie Chan when one of the players presses the buzzer and never lets go. During this songs middle section I picture his face with his deranged grin turning slowly to the camera and the impending sense of fear arising as a result. Actually I'll be amazed if anyone understands what I'm referring to here. If you do, well done! We both have a completely deluded sense of humour!
 Overall, there are a lot of highs to be found on this album in the form of it's pulsing icy indie pop rhythms filled with hooks and danceable moments. They are very fun and the experimental keyboard and synthesizer moments at these points can be very gripping and fun as well. But the album has it's lows as well and these are moments that are guaranteed to frighten and depress listeners and simply make them feel uncomfortable. So, this balance between the light and the dark is clearly the group's intention and fans of this style of music ought to find themselves in complete ecstasy of this final result. If you're not into this kind of music, chances are you'll just be left in the dark listening to it, not knowing what the hell is going on.

 Of Montreal's Paralytic Stalks is out on the 7th of February via Polyvinyl Record Co. The band will tour the UK in April.