I just canonized my favorite Of Montreal album, but I had far more to say about it than the punchier blurbs I prefer.
Here’s the extended cut explaining why Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer is an all-time, stone cold classic:
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This is a well-regarded album, and it’s generally considered the best of Of Montreal’s later, electronic-tinged work . However, after certain listens, I thing Hissing Fauna… might be my favorite album of all-time. Musically, it’s excellent, but there’s far more to it than pleasant indie electro-pop. This is an album that tackles the emptiness left by the disintegration of a monolithic relationship, references Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and name drops George Bataille–in the same song.
I’ve always felt the cult surrounding this album should be massive. It has traits, namely its background, confessional air, cohesive nature, the appearance of an alter ego and grandiosity, which tend to serve as hallmarks of albums considered to be classic.
Aside from interesting influences and well-crafted pop songs, Hissing Fauna… boasts an emotional rawness and honesty that borders on uncomfortable. It’s extremely similar to Pinkerton or your Joni Mitchell album of choice in exhibiting squirm-inducing reliability. Almost all vocals and instrumental performances were handled by Kevin Barnes, while in seclusion in Norway, and the album captures his emotional and mental state as he contemplates the possible end of his marriage. It is not a particular stable snapshot, even if the music belies the weighty sentiments being tossed around. This is an album with a jaunty number in which Barnes pleads with his brain chemistry for happiness.
The wounded artist retreating to lick their wounds and create a bold, personal artistic statement is a time-honored tradition stretching from Brian Wilson to Kanye West, and it’s always struck me as off Hissing Fauna didn’t pick up a little more clout for sharing a similar genesis.
Hissing Fauna… deals in very real emotions, but is also a bit of a concept album as the (relatively) mild-mannered Barnes morphs into the soulful, black and sexually fluid Georgie Fruit, Barnes’ musical alter ego, who is credited with performing the album’s funkier cuts. There’s really no delineation between Fruit and Barnes, because despite being a fictitious, androgynous black man, Fruit seems to be grappling with a lot of the insecurities and problems in Barnes’ life. Also, the last song on the album, which is absolutely gorgeous, “We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling” seems to come entirely from Barnes, and serve as a statement that while a relationship can die the connection that once existed between husband and wife is innate, and was at least a truth for a poignant stretch of time.
Hissing Fana… can be played as one continuous peace of music, as can many classic concept albums; however, a lack of a clear thesis or goal might be responsible for why this album is considered an excellent release by a pretty good band, and not a complete masterpiece.
Admittedly, the proximity of an entirely off the wall identity break and analysis of the permanent effects of matrimony convolute the album, but it’s nice that a grand statement can be made without a totally dour atmosphere.
For me, this album is the perfect mix of strong tunes, excellent production, heart-felt sentiment and humor. I truly cannot recommend finding the time to devour it in one sitting strongly enough.