‘UR FUN’ brings us the good, the bad and the ugly of the 1980s
of Montreal - UR FUN
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of Montreal’s new record is a game of two halves, each with differing success.UR FUN‘s A-side opens as an ironic 80s retro-pop throwaway full of earworms and melody moths. The B-side, however, is a more mellow and soft affair, which steps back from a lets-go-to-the-mall style to an introspective, intimate and all-round better focused final half.
From the off, ‘Peace To All Freaks’, ‘Polyaneurism’ and ‘Get God’s Attention By Being An Atheist’ set a tone full of decadent 80s colour and confidence. Tinged with double-meanings and abstract lyrics lead singer Kevin Barnes starts with something to swish your pinstripe blazer and shoulder pads too. But as with the Wall Street Crash in ‘87, excess doesn’t always mean total success.
The production of side A of the record is clean, digital and loud-the snare drum resembles an actual bubblegum bubble pop. In the style of ‘I Ran’ by Flock of Seagulls it’s fun and energetic, constantly moving forward to the electronic but of a drum sequencer. But it’s also distracting.
Kevin Barnes’ vocals are a standout aspect in of Montreal’s songwriting. Barnes’ lyrical style–a stream of consciousness at times–has a Costello-esque use of rhythm and phrasing to it which mixes irony and whit to make a political statement. In short, it’s excellent. However, the crammed and cramped 80s soundscape sometimes encroaches on Barnes’ words, rendering them fairly secondary to whatever melody is being played.
Without space to breath, pretty heavy tracks about monogamy, blind faith and upsetting god as a whole then become difficult to discern and interpret; threatening to become more throw away than the neon aesthetic of the 80s was until now.
As the record moves into side B however, there’s an interesting change in tempo, pacing and production. What starts as something you’d imagine appearing in The Breakfast Club, slowly becomes something more experimental, something that lends itself to conveying a clear message.
As UR FUN spins on into the second half, it slowly becomes a more punk-rock, political and deep affair. That annoyingly loud and full production of the previous half becomes something with more space and simplicity. ‘Don’t Let Me Die in America’, for example, is almost the antithesis–in tone, production and lyrical content–to the sort of sickish style of Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids In America’. As a result of this shift, Barnes’ blunt lyrics begin to shine: “Have I lost my country because I have no love for piggy-piggy fascists?”
Rather late-on UR FUN turns what could’ve become an annoyingly wrought album full of overly mixed songs into something with longevity. And, although UR FUN doesn’t get the balance right throughout, it still infrequently hits on something brilliant.
Haiku Review 80’s decadence is all good until you have to really listen