Freewave Lucifer f<ck f^ck f>ck
Over the course of 20 albums prior to this new one, vocalist/absurdist-songwriter Kevin Barnes has forged a formidable vision for of Montreal as something reflective of their love for radical folk lyricism, glam-rock flash, Revolver-era Beatles psychedelia, and expansive, rainbow-toned electro-pop. So, a mish-mash. Also, they have a thing for the devil, as several of the project’s albums fall into a rubric where false priests and satanic twins take charge of the proceedings.
Toying with abstract sexual politics (as usual) on their new record Freewave Lucifer f<ck f^ck f>ck, Barnes, in a Bowie-esque cackle worthy of Aladdin Sane, lets fly with lyrics such as “When people ask me my gender / I just tell them ‘Brunette’” on the sand-shifting electro of opener and first single “Marijuana’s a Working Woman.” Rich with airy instrumental breaks and wriggly, echo-heavy textures, “Marajuana” goes more places in one track then most artists do in their entire career. So does the quiet-storming “Nightswitch,” but here, Barnes changes the politics of sex into that of mortality and what it means to voice human pain and the effusion of decay.
Such wreaked havoc and the intimacy of plagued emotion haunts Freewave in a fashion you can’t always put your finger on, what with Barnes’ lyrics buried under layers of magic-imbued melody and arrangement. Though I couldn’t swear to Barnes’ intention, there is certainly a case to be made that “Ofrenda-Flanger-Ego-à Gogo” and “Blab Sabbath Lathe of Maiden” work toward essaying the pandemic era’s fearful emotion, or perhaps tie to the death of Barnes’ mother—something that occurred during the new album’s recording. And maybe, then, there’s rumination, catharsis, and all-around awe to be found in Barnes’ aesthetic-defining “Modern Art Bewilders.”
Either way, and anyway, and every way, Kevin Barnes remains one of our always-unexpected delights with hints of madness, the morose, and zealous merriment in the air on the project’s latest experiment.