Glam referential experimental musicians of Montreal (the band that is, in fact, from Athens, Georgia) are back with their 14th studio album ‘Innocence Reaches’. The new album is a flirtatious, playful genre-fuck of continuing evolution, replete with Kevin Barnes’ flair for provocative drama.
It opens with a question: “How do you identify?” asks an electronic voice over synthpop, tagging onto what has to be one of the most popular themes of 2016. What’s unclear is that while outdated ideas about gender and attraction are being overturned, and artists like Kevin Barnes who frequently gender bends in live performances, where does Barnes stand on the issue? Take, for example the single, ‘Different For Girls’ which, depending on where you stand in the spectrum of female appreciation is either a feminist leaning anthem or an attempt to mansplain the struggles of the 21st century. All set to an impossibly catchy beat, of course.
Which is exactly the same and as wildly different as the other single released – My Fair Lady. Sonically this owes as much to Billie Jean as it does to electropop, a seductive sashay that assuages the true difficulties of the lyrics. “Because you’ve been so abused, I have to give all the love that was meant for you to some other girl.”
This is something the album does a lot – whether it’s an attempt to be provocative, artistic, or a resistance to making the singer likeable, they stray back and forth over the lines of activism and offense. Is this going to be a dealbreaker for everybody? Absolutely not, and the heavy core of funk that runs through the album is enough that you can shy away from the more problematic aspects of the lyrics.
The songs themselves pulse with a kind of vibrant energy that bounces between the plinky electronics of songs like ‘Let’s Relate’ to the chaos of ‘Les Chants De Maldoror’, which descends into joyful cacophony, almost too much to listen to before resolving itself. This is the album’s greatest strength: its control. The songs are pushed to the brink of experiment, before being brought back into more familiar territory, and you hear deference paid to Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, Bowie, and Prince. This ragged ebb and flow is sustained throughout the album and at the end you’re left wondering how do you identify?
This of Montreal article was written by CJ Atkinson, a GIGsoup contributor