Polyvinyl Records, 2015
Review by Kent Manthie
Coming to an internet dealer to you quite soon (like, for instance: https://www.polyvinylrecords.com or, I suppose, you could go to Amazon or some other online fixture): of Montreal, caught in the act, so to speak, from some live gigs from the recent past, many, if not all, from San Francisco, in the form of this new CD, Snare Lustrous Doomings. At 92 minutes, it’s a safe bet that this is a double CD, although I haven’t seen the hard-copy product, myself, I received it all via the promo way: downloaded from email. But it’s a treasure to have.
Not surprisingly, Kevin and company play a lot of strong stuff from the Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer? and Skeletal Lamping/False Priest-era tunes as well as a couple other surprises thrown in; sorry, though, no interesting cover versions that sometimes show up in a band’s live set list . The album opens up with a more guitar-heavy, stripped down, a bit more raw version of “Suffer for Fashion”. “Coquet Coquette” from Skeletal Lamping‘s follow-up, False Priest, starts out with this wicked guitar riff that, in short order goes into the twice remixed song (from False Priest -the last two tracks).
Having covered all of their albums since 2005’s Satanic Panic in the Attic, I’ve seen the band evolve from a jingle-jangle, psychedelia-tinged sound, with Kevin Barnes’s clever, cryptic and sometimes just meaningless lyrics to the androgynous funk/post-disco, “Club Kids” unpredictability.
I don’t know for sure if this live album was recorded all from one (or maybe a 2-night stint), but one can tell, from a bit of the between-song-banter, where Kevin makes some references to being in San Francisco. But to hear the crowd, it sounded like they were in a pretty good sized place. I’m thinking, like, something along the size of the Cow Palace, in San Francisco.
Whatever places these were recorded at, the sound is commendable; the performances top notch. The band seemed to be in a good spot, mentally, emotionally and creatively. The songs they play, although, they have to follow the original tune as much as possible, don’t always adhere to the studio versions of them. As a matter of fact, one thing that sticks out on Snare Lustrous Doomings more so than on record, is the guitar. Whereas, on the studio works, the guitar was there, it was much of the time overtaken by various synthesizers and whiz-bang bells & whistles. For example, on “Time Will Show the Wiser” (which was recorded in San Francisco, unfortunately, though Kevin mentions that he loves “the venue”, he stops short of mentioning which one it is (could it be the Great American Music Hall? The Warfield? The Fillmore? Maritime Hall? Cow Palace? There are so many great venues in that best of American cities, the City By the Bay. After he flatters the audience about how great their city is and how much he loves it, he then announces that the next tune is their “love song to San Francisco”, which turns out to be “Honeymoon in San Francisco”, which is a nice, slowed down, but still a “keep-you-on-your-feet” tune, followed by a version of “You Do Mutilate” which is a bit faster and has a bit more soul to it, not to mention that awesome guitar, because on stage, in a live setting, you don’t have a studio engineer who can (or will) bury it beneath all the techno-stylings.
Kevin really burns it up on guitar, he shows that, yes, indeed, his band does rock. I can just imagine the multi-colored, day-glo freak circus these shows must’ve been. I missed their San Diego appearance last time they were in town, which was, oh, at least two or three years ago and it was at one of the venerable small-ish clubs.
Hardcore of Montreal fans will definitely want to add this to their of Montreal collection. But, this is such a great album – live or not – I’d recommend it to anyone, whether they’ve heard of of Montreal or not. In fact, a neophyte who listens to this live album as their introduction to the band and their music, will then be able to get a sort of cross-section, at least of the band since 2007 or so, and so then be able to, one by one, get the albums that have what they liked the best from this album. Also, another San Francisco-stage-banter reference was to something about the O’Farrell Theater [you know, the infamous Mitchell Brothers lust factory] just before they go into “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider”.
Running at 19 songs, Snare Lustrous Doomings is a great treat for those who love the magic in the air of a live show. You can sit back at home in your favorite easy chair and enjoy an of Montreal concert without even getting up. A must have for anyone who loves the novelty and urbanity of the wittily hip, sexually overt, love-fest that Snare Lustrous Doomings represents. –KM.