By Jared Balbona ’14
THE BRONCO BEAT
of Montreal – “Paralytic Stalks”
6.5 out of 10
of Montreal’s greatness lies within its members’ unique ability to create experimental pop music.
Their tracks possess an overwhelming density, yet they maintain their infectious appeal with each listen. While the group evolves musically with every album, lyrically, front man Kevin Barnes never loses sight of his two favorite topics: relationships and Kevin Barnes.
Structurally, “Paralytic Stalks” is no different from the band’s previous endeavors. It opens with simplicity and clarity, only to later erupt in an explosion of chaos and self-hatred; the record is accentuated with Barnes’ realizations about himself and of society.
In many ways, it is just a typical of Montreal album, and what is wrong with that? This same sequence has repeatedly proved successful in the past, so why not?
“Why not?” is exactly the problem.
of Montreal has begun creating albums because they can, regardless of inspiration or originality.
Consequently, the listener repeatedly finds themselves subject to Barnes’ further elaboration on feelings he has already described in excruciating detail on previous albums.
Frankly, it grows tiring.
However, it is this same aspect of emotional overload that causes it to be his most personal album yet, which is a quality that is much harder to condemn.
Barnes is evidently aware of this muse, or lack thereof, and makes the attempt to compensate through his instrumentation.
Although many parts of the album resemble the collective’s distinctive “folktronica” sound, they do manage to implement new elements and genres into their music like never before.
“Wintered Debts” uses steel guitars and honky-tonk piano riffs to emphasize the monotony of the singer’s frequent over-partying, and the problems that arise as a result.
This country shuffle provides a much needed contrast to the in-your-face psychedelic funk provided by the other songs on the album.
Similarly, “Exorcism Breeding Knife” was described by Mr. Barnes in an interview with Spin Magazine as “definitely the most unconventional arrangement I’ve ever created.”
This is impressive, considering that he has released a new record nearly every year since 1997.
In this track, he creates an inharmonious atmosphere through the hyper-implementation of classical instruments.
As usual, the group is quite ambitious, but they do manage to deliver most of the time.
The narcissism involved in these records creates feelings of both admiration and agitation.
It’s an uncomfortable paradox. Self-reflection is difficult, and inevitably, you will run out of things to discover.
“Paralytic Stalks’” maximalist attempt to mask this lack of inspiration is frustrating to say the least.
It’s an interesting album, but it makes no attempt to distinguish itself from the rest of the band’s repertoire.