Of Montreal’s latest record, Paralytic Stalks, makes for great spaceship music. The record has a sonic quality that brings to mind the Big Bang (yes, the beginning of the universe). Explosions of abstract, spacey sounds echo and blare throughout, from screechy vocals and guitars to noises wholly extraterrestrial and unidentifiable.
The Big Bang starts out magnificently; listening to the first half of the album feels akin to riding a beam of light across the newborn universe. Though markedly bold and strange, the first five tracks are beyond dynamic, constantly shifting rhythmic gears in a clever and exciting manner. “Spiteful Intervention” and “Dour Percentage” are the most noteworthy, containing brilliant, futuristic vocals over fascinatingly original melodies. These tracks are like mini glam-rock symphonies, their ebb-and-flow structure suggesting a classical music influence.
Unfortunately, the thrill of the Big Bang soon ends as the universe decays into a meaningless void. The second half of the album is tediously experimental and surreal. A shapeless and largely unintelligible mass of freakish noises emanates from computerized sources in songs (if they can be called songs) of obscene length. The tracks “Ye, Renew The Plaintiff” and “Exorcismic Breeding Knife” sound more like ultra high frequency communication between aliens than music. Perhaps the band wanted to provide us with a glimpse of what music sounds like outside the Milky Way. The result resembles a sci-fi soundtrack gone horribly wrong.
Considering that Paralytic Stalks is of Montreal’s 11th studio album, it’s clear that the band is eager to shed its indie-pop identity. And granted, they do a fantastic job of stepping outside the frameworks of current music and exploring uncharted territories. But, while experimentation can be fruitful (and certainly is for a good part of the album), the second half of the record speaks to the fact that it should only be done in moderation.