After the varied odyssey that was last year’s Paralytic Stalks (QRO review), it was natural that Kevin Barnes, the main man behind Atlanta’s of Montreal, would settle down a bit. Yet Barnes never really ‘settles’, and has managed to follow-up with the new Lousy With Sylvianbriar, which sees his neo-Beatles a little less crazy (relatively speaking), but perhaps even more engaging.
Reducing some of the outright psychedelic elements of Stalks and other prior records, Barnes has stripped down, but explored. There’s still the fun, this time in straight up walking blues pieces such as opener “Fugitive Air”, “Belle Grande Missionaries”, and “Hegira Émigré”. But there’s also the smooth and sly, like “Obsidian Currents” and “Colossus”. And of course Barnes can’t always stick to one style in a song, so “Triumph of Disintegration” mixes light funk and procession rock (with the great chorus line, “What is the flaw in just running away? / Running away fixes everything”), while “She Ain’t Speakin’ Now” goes from fun to country-ominous.
Though not the mammoth effort of some previous works, Lousy With Sylvianbriar more than makes up for that by being not just enjoyable but accessible. Indeed, it could serve well as the of Montreal record a fan hears, a sort of ‘gateway drug’ to the adventure that is Kevin Barnes.