Of Montreal

{grate 3}

Ugly doesn’t come easy to Kevin Barnes, non-fruit ringleader to Georgia gay-pride brigade Of Montreal. Despite his most furious and synth-frothing efforts to roughen up last year’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, its post-breakup freak-outs couldn’t help but wiggle into all our happy places; a seizuring 12-minute centerpiece, even at its peak of schizoid dissonance, had us rosy-cheeked and bobble-heading to an assault of nasally suicide notes.

Though he’s apparently over that Nina bitch, Barnes’ shift in persona from emotional wreck (albeit a sassy one) to drag-queen alter-ego Georgie Fruit (ever the sexaholic life of the afterparty) hardly marks a new willingness to just get us in the mood already, like we all know he could — no, this pretty boy will go down fighting, a prickly tumbleweed in spikes and cheesy heels. Barnes grasps for tension wherever he can, heaping opener “Nonpareil of Flavor” in a thick wall of fallout (Skeletal Lamping’s padlock for the weak at heart), then hanging us helpless in the sweet hammock of “Touched Something’s Hollow,” only to break into a befuddling midalbum costume party that sees Barnes, ever the stubborn individual, copping a slew of outside shticks.

“Women’s Studies Victims” (props for the song title) bottoms out with Cake raps and ’80s shit-pop from the Rocky Horror dungeons, followed by skeezy Jimmy Fallon falsetto on “St. Exquisite’s Confessions” — which only momentarily reaches Midnite Vultures sexy status with lines like “There’s so much anger and pain/ But come and see, there’s still some gentle people fucking to ‘Strawberry Letter 23.’”

Following the midalbum crisis, freshly determined to simultaneously coax and deter the dance party, Barnes struts out blowing grapefruity loads like never before. The greater second half of Lamping takes a new approach toward avoiding likeability — we will stroke our chin-hairs to his art, goddammit, and we will right well appreciate the reaches of his torment — by stuffing as many insta-orgasmic hooks as humanly possible into each others’ every orifice.

The oft-imitated indie God kills two birds with one stone by spraying all pending attempts to cop his flow by hipsters-with-cute-instruments in acceleration-mud on his way into orbit, far too light on his feet to be followed by an untrained eye. This labyrinthal multimedia project may be composed of same-old Of Montreal signatures, but don’t expect its verse-by-verse incohesion to come prechoreographed.