It might seem strange for Of Montreal to deem any of their material as too weird, but that seems to be the case with thecontrollersphere, a nifty little EP that compiles songs too spiky to fit on last year’s False Priest. The five tracks collected here are a jumble, somewhat hastily thrown together, but also provide a window onto the stylistic borders of the band’s sound.
This catchall effort arrives partially to promote the new book by lead singer Kevin Barnes’s brother, David Barnes, who’s designed all of the band’s album art to date, including the fabulously strange collage on display here. Titled What’s Weird, the book functions as a companion to the EP about as well as the EP does to the album it follows, which is to say it matches in tone and style, if not in method.
thecontrollersphere opens defiantly with “Black Lion Massacre,” a sustained explosion of pure noise that sprawls out over five minutes. It’s slightly out of character for a band that has usually reined in their most discordant elements, but a fitting introduction to this ragtag collection. Things calm down with the relatively conventional “Holiday Call,” a reasonably familiar effort that might make for a fitting single if it didn’t stretch out over eight long minutes.
Basically, the material here flaunts its own incongruity. These songs don’t belong on an Of Montreal album not because of substandard quality, but because they’re too messy, all capable of derailing the relative normality that existed on False Priest. The band has always pressed these limits, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics that barely fit within their proscribed structures, and here they gleefully burst the dam.
“L’age D’ore” is recognizable on the surface, but its conversational lyrics slant far more sexual than usual, ranging into borderline Prince territory, defusing the lewdness with over-the-top falsetto and quick references to how ridiculous it all sounds. “Slave Translator” is punchy and propulsive until a quicksand verse that slows things down to an insanely sluggish crawl, the background music dissolving into a squelching mass. These long verses dominate over the short choruses, willfully crushing the song’s momentum, culminating with an ending that’s as ragingly discordant as the album’s opening. Songs like this gamely identify the kind of absurdity at play here: thecontrollersphere may be an album of toss-offs, but they’re proud ones, earning that status by virtue of robust exploration rather than any real deficiency.