Skeletal Lamping is anything but skeletal. When we took a close listen to album closer “Id Engager” we mentioned it wasn’t the strangest, most ambitious, or best tune on of Montreal’s new one, but after absorbing the other 14 tracks, it’s clearly the ideal closer. Skeletal opens with the schizo epic “Nonpareil of Favor” and never lets up shifting, which is why you want a more straight-ahead disco track — Kevin Barnes as Scissor Sister — to close, bringing everything back, congealing into a solid finale. Of course, as one of a million curves, before the song ends you get a few seconds of rising-action fuzz that suggest another more sinister direction. But that’s all part of Skeletal Lamping’s shapeshifting unpredictability. It’s also of Montreal at their most sexed up — “Id Engager” alone involves some “penetration punishment.” Earlier in the record, during “Women’s Studies Victims” he takes one said someone in the kitchen “ass against the sink” (“She draped me in a stole, I think Malaysian mink”). Kitchen sink, yes.
Calling the Skeletal Lamping product line a “paradigm shift” is bullshit, but you shouldn’t underestimate all the sex talk on the record. Yes, Kevin is really thinking with his Hissing Fauna on this one, letting us know “We can do it softcore if you want, but you should know I take it both ways” (“For Our Elegant Caste”) and that “I’m just a black she-male” (“Wicked Wisdom”). He wants to “make you come 200 times a day” (“Gallery Piece”) and “ejaculate until it’s no longer fun” (“Plastis Wafers”), but also dry your tears. There are slow jams, braggadocio, a big cock creator, and gang bangs. And sometimes he’s just straight up: “My pleasure puss, I wanna know what it’s like to be inside you.”
Amid the madness and cheeky Germaine Greer/Frida Kahlo references of “Women’s Studies Victims” (which is prefaced by the hilarious disco funk/fuck of “Gallery Piece” and its “I wanna be your love / I wanna make you cry … / I wanna hurt your pride / I wanna slap your face / I wanna paint your nails,” etc. line of thought), you’ll get more rawly emotional moments like the sweet, somber, and Beatles-esque “Touched Something’s Hollow,” Barnes asking “Why am I so damaged, girl? / Why am I such poison, girl?” and concluding “I don’t know how long I can hold on if it’s going to be like this forever.” But it’s not going to be like this forever: The song is less then two minutes long, blending immediately into the joyous horns and falsetto of “An Eluardian Instance.”
It’s impossible describing each twist and turn, but we have the strange Ween/Prince-isms of “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” (“I’m so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel cruel city…”), “Triphallus, To Punctuate!”‘s smooth balladry and post-breakup pickup lines (“You should call me some time, I won’t answer, but at least I’ll know you care…”), the fuzzy, chanted electro blur of “Death Is Not A Parallel Move” before it becomes pastoral psychedelia, etc, etc. And, in the end, even with the moments of nostalgia (see “our last summer of as independents” in the aforementioned “An Eluardian Instance”) or warning (the doo-wop strings of “Beware Our Nubile Miscreants”), Skeletal Lamping is a big party.
This hour of music is so gigantic, and contains so many ingredients and emotions it can be almost overwhelming, but it’s also playful (“what are you talking about?” “no clue”), inventive, catchy, and strange enough that you likely won’t find your mind wandering. Barnes is telling engaging stories, not just wanking. Like we said about “Id Engager,” it’s what you’d expect the rainbow-colored rave-Edenic characters on the cover to be listening to at the end of the night when it’s time to get down to knocking boots. Only, if you’re using Skeletal Lamping as your soundtrack, you’d better be an all-nighter.
Note: If you don’t believe us regarding Skeletal’s ambition, take a listen to the previously mentioned epic opener “Nonpareil Of Favor.”
Skeletal Lamping is out 10/7 via Polyvinyl.