Of Montreal, ‘False Priest’ – First Listen

It’s fair to say that Alfred Kinsey would have a field day with Of Montreal’s insanely sex-obsessed tenth album. But we’ll leave the interpretation of frontman Kevin Barnes’ loinsome urges to the psychiatrists; what we want to know is what ‘False Priest’ and all its highly anticipated sleazy funk collaborations with Solange and Janelle Monáe actually sounds like…

Pic: Patrick Heagney

I Feel Ya Strutter
Kevin Barnes screeches, “I see ya girlfriend!” over what sounds like Michel Gondry directing the world’s campest musical. The lyrics are nonsense – “I can’t cope with such an abstract blackmail domination spasm” – and if someone told you this was Mika, you’d probably believe them.

Our Riotous Defects
‘False Priest’ marks the first time OM have recorded with a real orchestra instead of MIDI instruments. As such, this number kicks off with a massive spotlight on the piano moment, Barnes intoning, “you are such a crazy girl” in high-pitched hysteria before a monologue that makes Woody Allen’s seem perfectly rational.

Then Janelle Monáe appears. When Barnes guested on her album, they blended their voices to sound identical – she the Vanity to his Prince. Here, their voices are distinguished – his a falsetto, hers a gorgeous chime.

Coquet Coquette
The first single off the album.

Godly Intersex
Atop a hefty slather of sleaze, he sings, “The new forms are germinating, aureole wax,” before talking about “trying to keep my parents together” and “identity mutations”. It’s like someone’s held an emotion magnet up to his brain and extracted every grievance and grudge he’s harboured since childhood.

Enemy Gene
With an Autechre skitter in the background, Janelle Monáe reappears, singing more softly than usual. “They wanna disable my system,” they sing – Barnes coming from the perspective of someone with a prescription for antidepressants, and Monáe referencing the renegade android backstory of her new record.

Hydra Fancies
He references the ultimate in white boy smooth grooves, Hall & Oates, for a mid-verse hook. They’d balk at its weirdness though, particularly as myriad ideas jostle for space on the nursery rhyme outro, Barnes’ voice as soft and low as a sultry female R&B singer.

Like A Tourist
Pure Prince – yowling vocals, zingy funk guitar – except weirder. Barnes has never been into linear lyrics, but as he yelps, “Think of the auto de fé… unicorns eating baby meat”, “female erection!” and “they break our hearts like it’s our birthdays, soak us in animal blood”, he sounds hysterical.

Sex Karma
Solange croons, “I know that you wanna swing, run and touch my everything, ‘cos I look like a playground to you” in a bout of frisky call and return with Barnes. Just imagine if Solange’s body were a playground. The queues would be huge.

Girl Named Hello
Barnes howls like a disco wolf, squaws like a monkey, and caws like a zingy songbird choir. It’s proper shakedown stuff, reminiscent of Funkadelic, and he’s as self-obsessed as usual.

Famine Affair
This is Barnes at his lowest and most petulant. Broken-hearted, he banally repeats, “I don’t want you any more, I don’t love you any more, go away, go away”. From ‘Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer’’s ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ – nine minutes of brilliantly tortured, dark psyche-trawling – we know he can do devastating introspection brilliantly, but this isn’t subtle.

Casualty Of You
Foreboding piano melody, dark minor chords and a creepy violin make like something from a James Bond film set in a parallel, super camp universe. The relationship arc comes full circle, Barnes singing, “You’ve ruined me, you’re a terrorist” here.

Around The Way
The R&B vibe is lost here as OM morph into Yeasayer. A girl chants in another language and there’s a chorus of mangled voices before the orchestra detunes itself to oblivion.

‘You Do Mutilate?’
This sounds like a cut off Solange’s last album – a big city power number. “I’m in a war with this suicidal depression,” sings Barnes incongruously over the empowering ‘60s funk bent. Halfway through, someone flips a radio dial and the song becomes a strange intergalactic noodle.

Of Montreal, ‘False Priest’ is due for release in September