Lousy With Sylvianbriar
More than most bands, a new release from the Athens, Georgia-based psychedelic rock band of Montreal is an unpredictable endeavour. Over their 17 year, 20 (!) album career, of Montreal have played in funk, twee, afrobeat, krautrock, psychedelic, and dance grooves in a bizarre vaudevillian style that constantly reminds us of just how unique a writer Kevin Barnes is.
Lousy with Sylvianbriar was destined to be different. After relocating to San Francisco, Barnes wrote the album in isolation before assembling a fresh group of musicians back in Athens to perform the tracks. The musicians wrote their parts on the spot and recorded the rather stripped down album at a fast pace. Opting for traditional tape recording and full-band live cuts, Barnes and engineer Drew Vandenberg channel a late 60’s vibe that echoes David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead while still remaining distinctly of Montreal. The result is a guitar and lyric-centred album that is stripped of the layered falsetto and whimsical instrumentation of Hissing Fauna fame.
Lousy hearkens back to the band’s earliest work with the rolling riffs and driving grooves held down by twangy guitar tones. There’s no doubt that this is a rock album, but there are blues, country, and folk vibes that punch through at times with Simon and Garfunkial vocal harmonising.
Barnes gives us plenty to decode lyrically with lines such as, “I have the sense you want to be the female Henry Miller, cynically referring to your lovers as your pricks and exploiting other people’s madness” in Belle Glade Missionaries.
Though the sound is more conventional, there is a lot to listen to, and all put together, Lousy is a return to form while also being a bold (and welcome) change from a band that doesn’t like to stand still.