By Scott Roberts
On their 10th full-length release False Priest, goofy, but often brilliant, Athens-based band of Montreal and their musical guru Kevin Barnes have temporarily set aside a generous portion of their obvious love of ’60s psychedelia to make way for their inner Prince and Bowie. So, how you felt about the bulk of their previous work, and how you feel about the funkier side of the aforementioned pop icons, will significantly determine how you much you enjoy their new CD.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. The first single, “Coquet, Coquette,” is a pretty rockin’ number with some definite psychedelic leanings (intro notes sound like an electric sitar; ELO-ish solo) and seemingly mind-altered lyrical imagery (“With you I can only see my blacklight constellations” and “You give me emotional artifacts that can find no purchase”), but this song’s sound is much more the exception than the rule, as most of tracks on False Priest would feel right at home on an episode of Soul Train. As expected, though, Barnes and company dive headlong with 100 percent effort into whatever genre they may be attempting to re-create or whoever’s persona they may be channeling. And they certainly seem to be having a lot of fun with such dance-inducing songs as “Our Riotous Defects,” with its spoken verses and infectious choruses of “You’re just a crazy girl” (and sometimes “Your ass is crazy, girl!”), and the slightly Rundgrenesque “Hydra Fancies.” Overall, the music is catchy, intricate, and well-played, and the lyrics are at once absurd and thought-provoking.
The problem (if, in fact, there is one) is that of Montreal occasionally can come across as dilettantes — mere dabblers and pilferers of music that has already been done and, arguably, been done better. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge the sincerity of a CD like False Priest, but then again, maybe that’s not the point. After all, who needs heart when you’ve got two feet? Instead of questioning, enjoy the funky rhythms and retro disco vibe, and as one of the band’s most obvious influences might say: “Let’s Dance!”
of Montreal play Variety Playhouse with Janelle Monae on November 6 and 7.