With a very select style of pop dominating the mainstream music scene, indie pop releases seem to go under the radar.
Of Montreal is a band that debuted in 1996 and has incorporated elements of 1960’s psychedelic pop, indie rock, indie pop, alternative punk and dance rock through the years.
“UR FUN” was released Jan. 17 and is the band’s 16th studio album.
The album contains 10 tracks with a runtime of 40 minutes.
Using synthesizers, keyboards and upbeat retro vocals, “UR FUN” provides listeners with a glimpse into band founder Kevin Barnes’ personal life through 1980’s electro-pop.
However, despite the good qualities the songs have, the album seems unimaginative.
This is a vast difference from the band’s 2018 album “White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood,” which also used similar elements but in a slower tempo to convey messages of paranoia and how reality is a meaningless illusion.
The difference in style is seen immediately just from the album cover.
The albums’ covers are usually colorful art from his brother, David Barnes. However, “UR FUN” features Kevin driving a red sports car with his girlfriend Christina Schneider sitting on his lap.
This is the first time the cover has not been a drawing.
On the opening track and first single released is “Peace to All Freaks.” Kevin sings about trying to stay positive in a relationship while society becomes destructive.
The opening seconds of the track is like the opening of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” but instead of remaining a background sound during a eulogy-style sermon, an upbeat melody comes over it.
During the first pre-chorus, Kevin says to not be negative or cruel. He follows the two lines with “… I don’t think that I can do it for myself. But I can do it for us.”
In the last pre-chorus, he changes it to “…If you feel like you can’t do it for yourself. Then do it for us.”
In these two sections he tells the audience to be strong, if not for yourself, then for your partner.
The track starts the album on a good note, but it quickly leads into a track that makes me just shrug my shoulders.
“Polyaneurism” is about being in an open relationship and getting jealous during the nights the girlfriend is out with another boyfriend.
“IDK, I cannot say, can I be chill with this” is the start of verse 2 as Kevin starts to feel that the dynamic isn’t working.
In an interview with Songfacts, Kevin stated he was happy with his monogamous relationship with Schneider, but when he was part of polyamorous relationships in the past, it was more work for his emotions.
While the song is catchy and smooth, it just seems basic compared to what of Montreal can do with the topic, especially with Kevin’s experiences.
Despite this lackluster song, the following track “Get God’s Attention By Being An Atheist” gets the album back afloat.
Through intense guitar and sophisticated lyrics, the song brings us back to the quality of Montreal is able to demonstrate throughout much of their discography.
The track starts with Kevin setting the scene of lying in bed with a girl, both perusing books after intimacy.
Kevin references her crying and translating the French book “Éden, Éden, Éden” by Pierre Guyotat, which was set in an apocalyptic Algerian desert that featured intense scenes of carnage and sexual humiliation.
He was reading “Horse Crazy” by Gary Indiana, a book about a writer falling in love with a former junkie as his current lover is dying in a hospital from AIDS.
The chorus of “We don’t wanna be safe, we want experience” — mixed with the opening verse’s references to books that would offend some religious people — immediately shows Kevin’s belief of religion holding people back from experiencing aspects of life.
This is perhaps the best song of the album and the most rock like.
Following the high of the song, of Montreal goes back to the 1980’s pop in “Gypsy That Remains.”
The track features Locate S,1, Schneider’s band; here we get to see into their relationship.
Lyrics such as, “You’re my moral compass, you’re my savior. That’s what’s real,” in the bridge describes the way Kevin views Schneider.
Kevin even throws shade at a man named Daniel by saying “Oh, poor Daniel, torn to pieces. Now I get his verse with Christina the First.”
Within the song we get vocals from both on the chorus, providing a harmony that the rest of the album lacks.
Following the heart-pulling harmony, the album just rolls that beautiful red sports car off a cliff.
The next two songs come off flat, as Kevin continues love ballads that are nowhere near the quality of “Gypsy That Remains.”
Then, he goes into a song styled after punk rock called “Don’t Let Me Die In America.”
I’d almost rather have the poorly done love ballads.
Despite the decent instrumental, all it does is repeat the names of American cities and Kevin saying he does not want to die in that city.
He also says he does not want to haunt those cities.
“UR FUN” ends with three redeemable songs that somewhat stray, but after the damage of the midsection, it was hard to have fun listening to the album.