of Montreal - Icons, Abstract Thee
Record Label: Polyvinyl Records
Release Date: January 23, 2007
Honesty is always the best policy; but sometimes it can be a bleak affair.
It is too easy to label of Montreal's extended play, Icons, Abstract Thee, accompany piece to their breakthrough album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? as an outtake or b-sides compilation. Yet it consists of five songs that are thematically and sonically similar to the full album predecessor, and yes it is filled with tracks that for one reason or another were left off from the main project but Icons, Abstract Thee is more of a sister piece than a distinguished or lesser value effort. The tracks did not fit into the honesty episode that was unleashed on Hissing Fauna because they were even more traumatic than the songs that did make the cut. Perhaps the pain was just all too fresh at the time. Kevin Barnes bares his soul here folks; and for the first time it is not all about the theatrical or comical.
A clear objectified reason for the removal of these songs from the career defining superbly executed Hissing Fauna comes when the depth of the lyrical content of Icons is evaluated. They mainly tackle lead singer Kevin Barnes mental progress through his marriage breakdown with his then (and now) wife Nina Barnes. He even sculpted a song discussing the effect it will have on his young daughter is her later years on "Miss Blonde Your Papa Is Failing". The five tracks offer a mini shot (and a terribly bitter tasting shot it is) of the underlying currents that are not always obvious on the main album. You no longer have to wonder what he is getting at as he unequivocally informing you as on track “Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da” “Now that I fucked up, lost you, sweet friend/Everything is in the trash, and it's my fault/I've destroyed us, I know, it's unrecoverable/If there's a God he will repair your heart”.
The misery is intensified as you progress through the work. “Derailments in a Place of Our Own” asks the question “is happiness even possible?” as the inevitable relationship breakdown peaks. The doom and gloom sister piece is however sandwiched in-between the two best tracks on this EP. Opener “Du Og Meg” is a fable featuring a trapped princess and the modern equivalent of a darkness conquering hero. They even get to tour the evil empire selling t-shirts at some shows together. How lovely. Finally “No Conclusion” is a drawn out almost ten minute song that was written in the vein of “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal”. It is the main selling point of the record and contains the unique juxtaposition that only Kevin Barnes can nail so successfully; devastating lyrics/endearing song. “Tonight I feel like I should just destroy myself” This is possibly the bleakest record of 2007; but isn’t that what we want in (post-) modern music? For our tortured artistic idols to tell us how to live and deliver us from anguish and pain? Kevin Barnes has brought of Montreal to new territory here. Painful, painful territory.