Polyvinyl Records, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
It’s been about 11 years now, since I reviewed Satanic Panic in the Attic. Since that time, of Montreal have been blossoming and they continue to amaze. Their new album, Innocence Reaches is due to be released August 12th. Luckily I was able to get a hold of a press-issued copy so I could listen to it- over & over!- and then write up a review.
Well, first off, I must say that Innocence Reaches shows that Barnes & co. are still going strong. Kevin’s psycho-sexual, poetic lyrics are still in the mix. The song that of Montreal (or whomever it is that “picks” out what song will be a “single”) is releasing as the first single from Innocence Reaches is “It’s Different for Girls”, which has great lyrics; a kind of androgynous meditation on gender roles and the boxes people get put into, identity-wise; but in this case, Barnes wants to show that the old paradigm of “traditional” marriage (whatever that means) has, at long last, been replaced by a new, forward-looking, tradition-be-damned kind of thinking. However, even though “It’s Different for Girls” is the first single, myself, I actually liked “Gratuitous Abysses” better, just thought it a little groovier, but don’t get me wrong, I like both songs. Then comes the laid-back, floating feeling of “My Fair Lady”.
So, Innocence Reaches is of Montreal’s 14th album, a follow-up to last year’s delightful Aureate Gloom as well as the great live album, Snare Lustrous Doomings, capturing some great live stuff from Japan.
One thing I’m noticing about this album is that the tunes – some of them, anyway -have a little more edginess to them. I’m thinking of “Les Chants de Maldoror”, for one, which has some nice guitar work on it. “Chaos Arpeggiating” is also a great example of what makes this such a fabulous album. As far as I can tell, this tune shows of Montreal in a more rocking context. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that they suddenly turned into a metal band or anything like it. No, oM, since I first discovered them for myself, via a review, I saw them metamorphosing over the next couple years. For example, after Satanic Panic in the Attic, they came back with Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer, which, ever since I first listened to it, had changed from the jingle-jangle, psychedelic-pop of the previous albums, they got more and more experimental, musically. Then, the next year, oM came out with Skeletal Lamping, which, for me, anyway, was a real treat: a great album, with sonic precision, great lyrics, and songs that were mesmerizing. Then, after False Priest and a couple other albums, of Montreal put out Lousy With Sylvanbriar, which, I think, was the beginning of a new phase for of Montreal. What I mean is that it seems like Lousy… was the album that started oM on the road to a new paradigm: one that infused a little bit more of an edge to it, but without losing that singular sound that of Montreal does with such passion and flair.
Another funky, mellow tune is “Ambassador Bridge”, which is a catchy tune about a girl named Sara and how she’s “Coming down from Detroit”. It too is a soothing, laid back tune with infectious hooks and grooves.
All in all, Innocence Reaches is a remarkable album; it shows that Kevin Barnes and co. are still hard at work, doing their best to make the best music they can- all for you! As I wrote above, Innocence Reaches doesn’t come out until August 12th, but, if you’d like to have a sneak peak at the new video for “It’s Different for Girls”, then see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_WDugKPnlk.
The more I listen to Innocence Reaches, the more I like it. I assure you, long after I’ve finished this review, I’ll still be listening to Innocence Reaches just because I like it. One more thing: if you are intrigued by the cover art, well, that can be credited to Kevin Barnes brother, David, who has good artistic skills. This isn’t the first of Montreal album David’s designed; he’s done some intricate, trippy artwork for some previous albums. So, in closing, I just want to say that Innocence Reaches is a splendid, grand album which shows that of Montreal still has “it”. One thing, I must say: this album has really pricked up my ears: it’s a shift forward from their last few albums, which is always a good thing; if you’re in a band, you definitely don’t want to have a big splash on first being heard only to have that certain magic fade over the next few albums. To avoid this, a band needs to be flexible, willing to adapt and it doesn’t hurt to be a little ahead of the times! Good times, good times. -KM.