During the last three years of Montreal have been on a tear: releasing 2004's Satanic Panic in the Attic and 2005's The Sunlandic Twins and spreading their dance party-inducing live shows to the masses. Now, of Montreal have created their masterpiece with Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? It's an irresistible and remarkable album, sounding like a logical extension of the erratic indie-disco sounds of The Sunlandic Twins. However, Hissing Fauna is also the most personal of Montreal album to date, with Kevin Barnes, lead of Montreal songwriter, pouring tremendous amounts of emotion, heartbreak, frustration and elation into its twelve tracks. Written and recorded primarily during what he calls "an insane year," Hissing Fauna sees Barnes adopt a new writing style. It's an unabashedly autobiographical attempt from a songwriter whose early material tended towards characters and story-songs. Barnes continues down the whimsical pop funk path, while changing up its lyrical scope; and Hissing Fauna balances its poppy nature while showcasing brutal and unflinching honesty.
At first they were very twee. Then they were disco-punk, sort of. And now they are one. Kevin Barnes, this enigmatic band's prolific singer-songwriter, wrote and recorded much of this album alone, though he did enlist the help of a few friends (Alabee Blonde, the Late B.P. Helium and Heather McIntosh). Programmed handclaps, looped semi-funky bass and synth washes are the main ingredient on the Athens-based dude's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. Thankfully, he's still intent on mixing and matching disparate genres at whim, throwing Beach Boys' harmonies atop songs that sound more than a little like a Bowie-Eno collaboration. Lyrically, these might be the most personal songs Barnes has written. Sonically it's solid, but not as fully realized as the band's prior albums. As with any "growing pains" record, Destroyer might not make many new fans, but old ones will be pleased. The real breakthrough number, the song that hopefully hints at the band's next direction, is the twelve minute "Past Is a Grotesque Animal," a lovely and percolating New Wave motorik number that recalls the neon splendor of La Dusseldorf while referencing Georges Bataille. It's really good, and makes the listener fondly yearn for one's college days. --Mike McGonigal