1. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
The first time I heard Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? I thought it sounded like a cross between very cheesy 80s pop-metal and The Beatles. I don’t know why that first impression stuck with me, but it did. I didn’t stop listening to the album almost daily until December. I’ve seen Of Montreal live twice since. I bought it on CD in Cambridge, Massachusetts along with Icons Abstract Thee and woke up to both of them for several months. On my way to Hard Working Class Heroes in Tripod one night, I decided they were my favourite band. On several occasions I decided that The Past Is A Grotesque Animal was my favourite song. I talked to Kevin Barnes once about his uncle. I got everyone in the band to sign my copy of the album. I know about 90% of the words – which admittedly is not super impressive, but words don’t memorise so well when they don’t rhyme and they’re all multi-syllabic. Hissing Fauna has been a stupidly large part of my life since I first unzipped the downloaded RAR. In that teenage way, the same way The Smiths or Radiohead or REM were for me at various stages of my development. So it’s at number one in my incredibly belated list of 2007’s best albums.
Musically, it lands between purple funk and something approaching twee. It is incredibly constructed. Only headphones properly reveal how much layering and building up went into it. There are songs where what seems like a single bass part is in fact two, bouncing between speakers for no real reason. It happens with the guitars everywhere too. And the non-lead vocals. There are three man, one second “oohs” at varying points. So it’s very impressive as a studio project, even apart from the fact that there are about five separate melodies per song implanting themselves in the mind of every listener. It’s manically catchy. From dance floor-ready disco stuff like She’s A Rejector to grooving, loping seriousness like Cato As A Pun, there are undeniable melodies in every possible shape.
It’s the lyrics that make Hissing Fauna so good though. A baby (you’d have to assume his daughter) gurgles carefree as an invocation right at the start, and there’s something about the freedom and honesty of that that seems to be relevant to the rest of the album. ‘No holds barred’ is the best cliché for it. Quoting is very unlikely to do any justice to how well-measured, lyrical, insightful, beautiful, hateful, funny and shocking Hissing Fauna is at varying intervals, but I’ll try.
“What has happened to you and I/And don’t say that I have changed/Cause man, of course I have”. His girlfriend gone back to Norway with his daughter in Cato As A Pun. “I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Norway/I felt the darkness of a black metal band/But being such a faun of a man, I didn’t burn down any old churches/Just slept way too much” as the first line of a joyous, lysergic Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger. “Somehow you’ve red-rovered the Gestapo encircling my heart” or any other line in the ten minutes of The Past Is A Grotesque Animal, one of the most accurate love songs ever written, in my humble opinion anyway. Everywhere. The whole album is full of lines that make you stand back and smile, or frown, or laugh, or have some other emotional response. And they keep appearing, for the first hundred listens.
I would consider this one of the best albums ever made. I’m not just a sappy blogger saying that. Actually, I am just a sappy blogger, but I don’t come to these sweeping statements lightly. I genuinely do think it is one of the best albums ever. I will vote for it on every Channel 4 poll ever conducted until technology outruns my ageing intellect and I have to get my grandchildren to do it for me. Unrestrained magnificence.