Of Montreal go full bubble gum. The latest album from Kevin Barnes and company is unhinged, ’80s bedroom pop drenched in sugar. It’s like this album is a sports car made of candy.
While it isn’t always great, if you take it for what it is, the album will stick with you. The record UR FUN has its moments as the catchiest thing you’ve heard since Cyndi Lauper, but it only slightly improves upon the form.
Barnes’ songs about dating were cute and honest during the disco-influenced and psychedelic eras of the band, but as the music goes further into the realm of what, for lack of a better term, is bubble gum pop, it becomes less earnest. Now that Barnes is 45 years old and the band is becoming more and more accessible, it isn’t necessarily flattering.
Of Montreal have always been a metrosexual project, taking the torch from, most notably, David Bowie, and UR FUN could be more modernly queer and less ’80s metro.
Of Montreal are a part of the Elephant Six Collective, and the band have become one of the most popular and successful of the group. With much of this new record being electronically produced, the flaw of this album could be the band’s success. Barnes may have too much control of the project.
The album’s greatest prowess is its synth melodies. There are some really pleasant and engaging passages. The beats, however, leave something to be desired. It’s refreshing that the vocals don’t have a ton of reverb in general and use effects when it really enhances them.
The lyrics aren’t always great, but they get stuck in your head days after just the first listen. This record isn’t trying to do anything but be a pop record, yet it can still make the listener cringe. See “Don’t Let Me Die in America.”
Other times, it’s more successful. The single “Polyaneurism” is funny, satirical, and kind of sad. It talks about the modern implications of one-sided polyamory and manages to be one of the catchiest, femme, and unique songs on the record while critiquing contemporary, alternative culture.
Most of the guitar and bass parts are unremarkable, but when it gets to “Deliberate Self-Harm Ha Ha,” there is a great, groovy-smooth bass line. It is accompanied by great synth and guitar leads. The pace of this track is probably the slowest on the album, which makes it one that stands out.
Perhaps the best way to listen to this album is to ignore the lyrics, take it for what it is, and try to turn your brain off. If you’re into that, it can be quite fun and enjoyable.
While early Of Montreal used to be the perfect dance-the-pain-away music, it now veers towards ridiculousness. Whether it’s pure escapism or the inevitable tide of success, the project just isn’t what it used to be. Still, UR FUN is tough to hate and, love it or hate it, these songs will be burned into your mind.