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Monday, June 25, 2007

“The Past is a Grotesque Animal”

posted by on June 25 at 15:37 PM

So, this should have gone up Friday, I guess, but I was busy recapping Thursday night’s Glass Candy show at the Comet, among other things. So, with no further ado, the Best Song Ever (Last Week) is…

“The Past is a Grotesque Animal” by Of Montreal

The song is nearly 12 minutes long, but it flies by—it tricks the time-keeping part of the mind, which is only the first or last reason it’s a great song. “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” is the hypnotic centerpiece of the great Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer>, a drawn-out, eventually frantic unravelling of the album’s autobiographical character(s) (“let’s have some fun/let’s tear the shit apart/let’s tear the fucking house apart/let’s tear our fucking bodies apart”). But beyond it’s episodic significance, it’s an examination of futility, despair, and nostalgia in the face of mortality (“I find myself searching for old selves/while speeding forward through the plate glass of maturing cells”). The past is a monster, a bitter reminder of things that could’ve been (“things could be different, but they’re not”) as well as things that were, both equally taunting and impossible, and as time progresses, it only gets larger and more grotesque (“and in its eyes you see/how completely wrong you can be”).

If it’s lyrically morbid, it’s at least a little musically buoyant. The track builds over metronomic kick drum, flanged bass, and propulsive 16th note guitar picking; keyboard filter sweeps, ambient noises, and muffled growls circle around and descend. At 4:19, background “Oooh oooh ooh”s float up out of nowhere and then repeat for the rest of the track. Over all this, Kevin Barnes sings and whines and then barks. He references Georges Bataille. He sings about failed romance as existential crisis. When the track finally exhausts itself and sputters out at 11:45, it’s a profound moment of catharsis.

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Basically, it sounds like an angry flying saucer.

But uh... in a good way.

Posted by john | June 25, 2007 5:16 PM

Jesus Eric, it must be lonely over there for you. This is the first thing that's made sense in Line Out in ages. Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer is the best album of the year. The music is incredible (Cato as a Pun), but what causes the album to stand out is the darkness and personal nature of the lyrics. I really doubt Of Montreal will equal or top this album - it's just that unique to a particular point in time. I'd say it was the best album in years, but that Arctic Monkeys album last year was great, and there was Art Brut the year before.

Posted by vegetable lasagna | June 25, 2007 5:16 PM

It's lonely everywhere. But, yeah. I'd always been a passing fan of Of Montreal, but this album is just genius. I can't imagine him topping it, either, but let's hope. Speaking of, what do you think of the new Art Brut? I'm all for it, even if it's actually a little less meta/complicated.

Posted by Eric Grandy | June 25, 2007 5:30 PM

i agree. hissing fauna, are you the destroyer? is one of the best albums made all year, and it's a testament to the quality, considering it was released in january.

best lyric on "the past is a grotesque animal?" "we want our film to be BEAUTIFUL/not realistic!"

Posted by douglas martin | June 25, 2007 6:23 PM

I haven't checked it the new album out yet, but I love cheeky Brit pop. Hissing Fauna has slipped to 26 on Metacritic, and well behind an uninspired Arcade Fire album and a good LCD album, neither of which I've made it through, Panda Bear and (OMFG c'mon) Amy Boozehound. On the other hand, I love the Besnard Lakes CD - am I 'imagining' all those hat tips to Rush?

Posted by vegetable lasagna | June 25, 2007 7:07 PM

well said! this certainly is one of the best songs i've heard in quite some time, off of my favorite record so far of the year. can't wait till they come back to seattle.

Posted by mirror | June 25, 2007 8:57 PM

This is probably the best/only song I know that refercences "The Story of the Eye."

Posted by Eli | June 26, 2007 12:49 PM

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