REVIEW: Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?



Of Montreal‘s new album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? held some high personal expectations for me. This is partly because the band has released a respectable album every year since 1997, with head songwriter Kevin Barnes’ brilliant melodies and creatively diverse song structures leading the way. Of Montreal has always been the traditional mold of an Elephant 6 Collective band, mixing modern experimental techniques with catchy 70s British invasion and psychedelia. I am referring to the experimental aspect as partly due to Barnes’ wildly imaginative vocals, making their mark in each and every song, in which the vocals are never dull as they always sound completely confident with the material at hand. Of Montreal’s general sound seems to be slowly expanding as each album is released, even as their debut Cheery Peel used a diverse mixture of several genres, with traditionally acoustic-bred love ballads to early 20th century jazz poking their way through.

One of the notable focuses on Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? seems to be the interest with electronic dance. The eruptive ‘Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse’ transfers from a straightforward piano-led verse into an explosive synth layered chorus with ease, as Barnes’ vocals yet again prove to be the perfect fit for his hooky melodies. Of Montreal’s fascination with funk and blues has always been evident, and Hidden Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? offers some of their best based off their fascination. ‘Gronlandic Edit’ is one of the best examples of this, even as Barnes’ vocals sound half mocking, though entirely effective especially during the vocally halted chorus. Like general funk, the same melody leads the song for quite some time before switching to a bit of a surprising chorus signified by a chorus-like pad. ‘Faberge Falls for Shuggie’ also uses the funk element, though primarily with the rhythm section as the chorus is filled with creative takes on brass and synth instruments.

Even while his melodies remain brilliantly in tact, Barnes makes a heavy lyrical impact with ‘The Past is a Grotesque Animal’ in the view of a man gone mad over a lost love and the memories that still consume him. The descriptive elements vary as the verbal epic lasts almost twelve minutes. “I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met who could appreciate Georges Bataille,” Barnes emphasizes through a simplistically consuming repeating guitar riff, with a variety of different ambient noises shifting in and out, stressing how “it’s so embarrassing to need someone like I do you”. The song initially may come off as a failed creative attempt to those who grow impatient with ease, but a listen to the song as a whole open-minded effort will reveal itself as a successful, in terms of what Barnes was shooting for. He manages to capture the essence of insanity and lost cause perfectly through his lyrics and emphasized use of the first-person.

‘She’s a Rejector’ manages to really make itself stand out from many of the other tracks, with a straightforward punk approach. “There’s a girl that left me bitter, I want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her,” Barnes solemnly says before erupting into the exclamative increase of tempo, “But I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t”. The verses are short and rare, with the three-part chorus really making the most impact, further touching on their often creative song structure. ‘Suffer for Fashion’ abandons the creativity, but manages to create the most accessible song on the album, not surprisingly being the opener, while the fantastic ‘Bunny Ain’t No Rider’ rides on a quickly swiped expanding chorus, colliding with Barnes’ odd and humorous lyrics. The album ceases to stop, with most songs falling into the next without a break, though each song is creative enough to avoid any sort of tedious overplay. Of Montreal continues to achieve success, filling my expectations along with others who have been fortunate enough to have heard their previous albums. The album is scheduled for release in January, making it (so far) the best album of 2007, though with a lack of competition.

Rating: 8.7/10


Of Montreal – Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse



Of Montreal – She’s a Rejector



Of Montreal – Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider



Official Web Site


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

Send your music to [email protected].


  1. funny, i didn’t take ‘grotesque animal’ to be an epic about lost love at all, but rather about stuggling with someone you can’t help but love and need.

  2. i have been streaming these off of your page at school long enough that i thought i owed a comment. this stuff is fucking awesome.

  3. i agree completely with your review and i am so pleased with what i thought would be a very difficult successor to ‘sunlandic twins’. glad someone shares my opinions.

  4. i absolutely adore of Montreal! thanks for posting the songs!
    personal finance is finally actually interesting =)

    rememeber the datee: 01.27.07

  5. This album is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It was given to me by a friend who has been trying to show me of Montreal for a while now, and I finally gave them a whirl, and damn it all, I wish I would’ve started sooner! I don’t do leaks, so I have every intention on purchasing this album in January, as well as their other albums. Sunlandic Twins has definitely caught my attention! I wish to someday personally thank these fine people for creating such vibrant music! PS: Is it true they dig the Beatles and Beachboys? I dig that!

  6. now if you’d like a REAL review of the album- the good, the bad, the UGLY, read on.

    i have mixed feelings about hissing fauna. i’ve had it since august, so i’ve spent a lot of time with it to pick it apart. i disagree with the reviewer above in that i feel the lyrics are COMPLETELY lacking in this album. the charm of kevin barnes’ lyrics has always been the whimsical stories he tells from the 3rd person (chrissy kissed the corpse, minature philospher, etc.). although he certainly made some amazing songs from the 1st person perspective, his lyrics at least had dimension, even when they were about love.

    READ THIS LYRIC from so begins our alabee

    “The chrysalis is breaking and the super ego’s waking
    I’ve been a gloomy Petrarch with a quill as weepy as Dido
    You’re my mousy aesthete you’re my bouyant cherub it’s true”

    now compare it to these from The Past is a Grotesque Animal

    “I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met”
    “it’s so embarrassing to need someone like I do you”

    now if that doesn’t prove my point i don’t know what would. Barnes is brilliant and obviously well read, and it’s always been a huge part of his lyrical appeal to me. i love not always knowing what he’s talking about and having to look it up to understand. the lyrics from hissing fauna are just too straight forward. they’ve lost that added dimension of mystique and intellect that was so evident in his earlier work. perhaps this was done to make the album more accessible to the general public?

    but other than that, it sure has some funky beats that make me want to dance, which is certainly good. however, i want more substance from this album. i want to feel like i’ve accomplished something when it’s over. i feel like this album is a collection of singles intended for sale to mass markets, which is quite a difference from an album like Satanic Panic in the Attic which ends in the most amazing build up and concludes with a freaking GONG. now that’s a triumphant ending. or on sunlandic twins, the repudiated immortals is the most beautiful song of all time, and completely encompasses my life philosphy. if only barnes could pull something like that off again. i know he has it in him…

    i wanted goose bumps when i finished this album, and it just didn’t happen- although i’d say we are the mutants again with leafling is probably one of the best tracks on hissing fauna.

    oh, and the past is a grotesque animal is a grotesque song. it’s completely unchanging with the exception of a sweet synth part near the end, but the lyrics are trite, and the song is totally uninteresting. this song is a dud- i think it might even be worse than city bird (cringe).

    probably the best two tracks on the album in my opinion are sink the seine (which is disappointingly short) and faberge falls for shuggie. this track is hilarious. although barnes’ lyrics are totally lacking, his vocals are DEAD ON. i loved the singing on this album, particularly on this track. his range is out of control, in a good way.

    overall, i feel the album is a logical step for of montreal, but it didn’t quite succeed like their previous albums. i think the mental breakdown of kevin barnes and empty pockets could be a contributing factor.

    i want to hear guitars again… they’re rad.

  7. vanessa…what album are you listening to? spita is the most overrated album in their entire catalog. aside from the first 4 or 5 songs its boring as hell. taking lyrics out of context and comparing them is also boring. *yawn*.

  8. nice review, vanessa. ‘the past is a grotesque animal’ is awful. overall i have to say i’m dissapointed. when i heard the sunlandic twins i was stunned. it was the most surreal yet amazing record i’ve ever heard. i can’t say the same about this album. damn it, i wish this wasn’t true, but it is. i remember when coldplay came out with x&y, and, blinded by my love for the band, i declared the album a masterpiece. i was wrong. x&y sucks. and sadly, hissing faune, are you the destroyer? just isn’t that great either. it sounds plain, and for of montreal, plain is failure and a dissapointment. it’s depressing to realize i managed NOT to dance while listening to the new of montreal album

  9. “i want more substance from this album. i want to feel like i’ve accomplished something when it’s over.” vanessa, you said it. that sums up the way i approach music altogether. of montreal always challenged me, with great lyrics (which are certainly lacking here) and strange twists of all sorts (chord changes, time changes, odd subject matter)…it took a couple of years, but after the O.M. dam broke, there was no going back. they’ve helped me to grow musically. and even after i had fallen in love, each new album still challenged me to the point where it took a few weeks for me to embrace it (like “SPITA”, for instance, which i consider to be one of their best ever, with a shitload of ‘perfect pop’).

    when i first heard the digital beats off one of the tracks from ‘hissing fauna’, i knew there’d be at least a slight element of disappointment for me due to the fact that i wasn’t crazy about his electronic/dance direction on ‘sunlandic twins’ – that’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable piece of work, though. but does anyone else agree with me when i say that it (hissing fauna) feels like an indistinguishable extention of, or simply “part 2” of the previous album??

    with that being said, it is still quite pleasant and has its fair share of interesting moments and quality hooks…i just (to paraphrase vanessa) miss the guitars – i miss ‘of montreal’ in general – they are present in live incarnations, but the newer albums are primarily made solely (correct me if i’m wrong) by mr. barnes on a laptop – and it shows. sadly, i feel there’s something lacking here that i doubt will allow the album to really latch on like everything else before ‘sunlandic twins’ did.

  10. if you want a pre Sunlandic sound pick up the new EP Icons, Abstract Thee. it’s great and actually has some acoustic guitar.

    i love this album. i’ve loved just about everything they’ve done. Kevin’s lyrics haven’t always been dense. in the early days, a simple love song was not uncommon.

    Grotesque is not unchanging. i know that a vocal loop comes in at some point. i think it’s a great song. you say you want OM to continue to be different – how many songs like Grotesque do they have? i wonder if the song was written in free form off the cuff style. it feels like you’re actually experiencing what Kevin was at the time NOW and every time you hear it. it’s not carefully thought out poetry – IT IS THE MOMENT – 12 mins could be 2 mins or infinity.

    give Hissing Fauna some more time.

    i don’t see how anyone can diss on City Bird. it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever. i believe it’s the only non-cover OM song that Kevin didn’t write the lyrics to. i love it.

    a gong to end a song is not new – Bohemian Rhapsody

  11. Way to take those lyrics completely out of context Vanessa. You can pick apart anything and present it’s pieces to make it look bad.

  12. HFAYTD is an AMAZING album. but i really can see all points of the argument going on here. in a way i am really glad that vanessa and some others didnt like the album. when i first heard the album. i was like whooa this is really really different, i hope that people don’t just like it becuase they like of montreal. which i think some people are tottally guilty of. beucase if i am being completly honest it does sound to me as though of montreal has slightly sold out at certain points in the album. don’t get me wrong, i LOVE this album. it amazes me, and i find myself playing abnd singing along to every single song over and over again. but anyways im glad that some people don’t like it, if not it would lose it’s some of it’s appeal to me. i like that people are actually taking the time to listen to the words and critique it and compare it to their previous albums. while others are just liek OMG OF MONTREAL I LOVE THEM NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO. thats so lame and i hope thats not true.

    i’m surprised the song people don’t like is the past is a grotesque animal. its an amazing song and i cant get eneough of it. it’t just so intimate. im guessing no one else thinks that labyrianthian pomp sounds like a bad pop song by justin timberlake or someone. after listening to this song many times, it’s really grown on me and i love it. but the first time i heard it i was liek ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! but after listening to the lyrics, and getting comfortable with the song i love it.

    just thought i’ld but my two cents in.


    you must be paralyzed or something.

  14. Ok, so when this album was released a few months back on the Of Montreal website, I was excited. I listened a few times, but I knida wanted to wait for the real thing to come out.

    I bought it on the tuesday it came out, and at first was a little put off. My favorite OM album remains Cherry Peel simply because it encapsulates every range of emotion for me. Sunlandic Twins is a close second. At first, HFAYTD sounded a little bit over-done. Too many noises, strange lyrics. However, I got hooked when I reached Bunny Ain’t No Kind Of Rider. It just clicked. Since then, I have loved the album. Granted, it is certainly a little different from most OM albums, but the lyrics have returned to more simple yet meaningful expressions of emotions. And for me, Grotesque Animal is a great song. I totally agree with the poster that noted how the song is about the moment, and it certainly pulls you in and allows you to empathize with Barnes. If you didn’t like it, listen again and focus on it. The thing I like about Hissing Fauna is that it never stops. It just keeps on rolling, without slowing down, and the groovy beats really give this album a new feel. I’m not sure yet where it will rank on my OM favorites, but I certainly was not dissappointed. I can’t wait to see them live in March.

  15. LOVE the album…cant wait to see them live and how they perform these songs….good review. as for the negative comments regarding this release, I extremely disagree, but to each their own

  16. I don’t know how anyone could say that the lyrics to this album are lacking….in the song the past is a grotesque animal (which is not awful, to correct those mock-intellectuals who spoke before me) the lyrics are not simple at all…vanessa and the others were isolating a few lines of the entire 12-minute song as if those few were representative of it, which they simply were not….look at all the lyrics of just that one song alone and you’ll find those two “basic” examples from it were greatly outnumbered by intriguing riddles and figuaritive poetics. Here are some GOOD examples.
    “i find myself
    searching for old selves
    while speeding forward
    through the plateglass of maturing cells
    i fed the unraveler
    the paw hellion
    but even apocolypse is fleeting
    there’s no death, no ugly world
    sometimes i wonder if you’re mythologizing me
    like i do you
    apologizing me like i do you”
    That passage speaks for itself of what I mean. This is not immature putty molded for the mass market. It is an honest work of art. The ending line “none of our secrets are physical now” is a perfectly compact way of saying more than what a complex of convoluted terms could ever hope to. it is a stark portrayal, and i find it amusing that someone who supposedly “understood” the sunlandic twins (which IS, granted, one of the greatest albums i’ve ever heard) could not understand this. perhaps these people weren’t looking for substance at all, but rather just wanted of montreal to help them feel “intellectual.” this album is a character onslaught, and has to be listened to in depth before anyone can get over the amazement of the initial listen and unravel the mystery. it is not about using a sophisticated vocabulary to impress, it is about using a sophisticated understanding of the human experience to express feeling and frustrated desires. how could anyone who claims to value language ever ask that a poet sacrifice meaning for flair? please, don’t box this album up as simple-minded and an attempt to be popular. don’t be content to call this album a logical step in the direction of funk and dance music. this album is much much more than that…

  17. I am new to Of Montreal. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I am a music Nazi and don’t like most of what is out today. You can only find good stuff in the local scenes (not commercialized). This album thoroughly fucked my ear pussy as Jack Black would say.
    Each song offered a new sound which disallowed making it boring. As far as its worthiness of being an album and not a bundle of singles, it had a similar tone and lyrical relevance for all the songs in general. The drum machine beats coursed throughout the entire album making a consistent type of feel as far as rhythm. The keyboard/synth was brilliant at times and perfectly accentuated the lyrics. The bass rocked at the right times and made a few of the songs.
    As far as the lyrics being “just too straight forward,” you can wish for the moon and miss what’s right in front of you. The lyrics are precious and a thing of beauty. It’s humanity and life. The depths of a soul brought out for you to indulge. Not all lyrics need to be hidden and mysterious for them to be good. My last rebuttal for previous comments; “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” is a great concept (how I take it). The beauty of music is you can interpret it however you wish. My interpretation may completely diverge from the point of the song, but it gave me this thought.
    Please imagine this idea.
    Literally we are animals. There have been horrific and barbaric things done by humans (slavery, mass genocide, wars in general, again barbaric, thoughtless and immoral acts). “This past is a grotesque animal, and in its eyes you can see how completely wrong you can be”. We as humans are flawed and continue to be corrupt. There is no god and we animals have conscious thought that can affect our world and the beings on it.
    The song continues to be a lovesick soul-searching song. If you can’t appreciate this then I suppose don’t listen to it.

    Good work Of Montreal. Hope to see you in Portland, OR.


  18. I went through a divorce with my wife about 10 years ago and this album is so good it could be renamed “The Guide To Divorce Emotions”! Barnes didn’t write this album to challenge our minds with difficult words, he’s writing from the depths of his soul about his marital troubles and loneliness and the philosophies he has flirted with during this period, with his bare emotions on display for all to see. As for the music, this is as good a disco album as you’ll find, and I can’t get the guitar riff on “She’s A Rejector” out of my head! HFYATD is my favorite OM album and possibly in my top 5 of all time.

    Keep rockin’ OM.

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