Of Montreal’s latest may evoke effort, but lacks an inventive nature that makes it holistically unremarkable and flat in execution.
Their newest release since 2016’s full-length Innocence Reaches, Of Montreal’s latest EP, Rune Husk, departs from the mainstream EDM-feel that we last saw Kevin Barnes emulate and returns to their previous fusion of funk and glam rock that they maintained throughout most of the mid-2000s. I don’t want to say I disliked the EP altogether—because I didn’t; mostly because at this point I’m such an Of Montreal fan that regardless of what they release, it grows on me anyway, but objectively, it’s disjointed and not all that exciting. Of Montreal front-man and mastermind Kevin Barnes is capable of a lot, from the poppy and healing-focused Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, to the psychedelic funk disco aesthetic of Sunlandic Twins, to the darker and more layered Paralytic Stalks. In contrast to all that range, Rune Husk just feels uninspired, reminiscent of a Ziggy Stardust album rather than anything new.
The four-track EP starts with the song “Internecine Larks”, proving that Kevin Barnes still knows how to make English majors look up words on the internet (“Internecine” means “destructive to both sides in a conflict”, by the way). The song and entire EP maintains a violent lyricism, and a certain dissonance—a distinct return to a previous sound from the pleasing tones of EDM-inspired Innocence Reaches. Track 2, “Stag to the Stable”, features a funky guitar riff and is easily the most enjoyable track of the EP, as it’s the most upbeat and casually listenable with a playful bouncing bass line to accompany Barnes’ self-deprecating chorus: “Take it easy, Satans, I don’t want her to grieve/I hate that she’s been wounded by these changes in me.” It’s also the only track with a captivating guitar—there’s a guitar solo and some pleasantly focused riffs. Every other track is mostly just alternating tones or arpeggios, which gets tedious in the long tracks. If all four tracks were as satisfying as “Stag to the Stable”, this EP might have been a bit more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the EP devolves in tracks 3 and 4, where “Widowsucking” and “Island Life” both feature monotone vocals and bland instrumentals. These two songs are the slowest and darkest tracks of the EP, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kevin Barnes can do a lot with a slow, dark song that builds (see: “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal), but the problem is “Widowsucking” and “Island Life” don’t build to anything other than this same old sound. I found these tracks boring enough that they were tough to get through on my first listen of the album.
Overall, Rune Husk isn’t bad, per se, but among Of Montreal’s extensive discography of fourteen full-length albums, nine EPs, and twenty-some singles, I won’t be returning to listening to this particular EP any time soon. The unremarkable nature of Rune Husk is predictable given release just six months after a full-length album and tour, but I want to expect more from a band I know can make sexy, inventive music.
Listen to Rune Husk here: