Of the Chaotic ‘Paralytic’

Courtesy of Polyvinyl

 

The last time most of you heard of Montreal was probably the thumping, head-bopping “Wraith Pinned to the Mist,” which made it big in an Outback Steakhouse commercial. That was six years and four albums ago.

This past week, they released their eleventh full-length studio album, “Paralytic Stalks.”

 

If you’re expecting more of the same safe lo-fi indie pop that was defined by “Wraith,” you’ll be disappointed. “Paralytic Stalks” is anything but, making it hard to place.

 

The album starts dark, dense and messy. “Gelid Ascent,” the opening track, begins with a full eight seconds of silence before introducing a cacophony of drums, jangly strings and heavily reverbed vocals, then transitioning again into an epically rhythmic interlude. “Spite Intervention,” the second track, is more streamlined, unraveling the strings and vocals from “Gelid Ascent” to produce something somehow both upbeat and heart-wrenching.

 

Unexpectedly, the second third of the album is light and airy, almost disco-influenced. “Dour Percentage,” the third track, is the album’s most past-facing song, with layered vocals and flutes giving the track a very nostalgic sound.

 

“Malefic Destiny” features mostly woodwinds behind the vocals, the first time ever that of Montreal has featured hired studio musicians on an album, and is perfectly representative of the middle section of the record.

 

The ending is mostly aggressive and chaotic, both stylistically and thematically scattered. The last four songs make up the bulk of the album, being 8:45, 7:33, 7:41 and 13:13 in length. The final track, the oddly named “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission,” is a perfect example of the final third; its tempo varies greatly and it includes a lot of instruments and often devolves into more noise than music before unexpectedly screeching its way into a sweet and uplifting piano and vocal-driven cherry on top of the proverbial sundae.

 

The lyricism is consistent with the score, focusing mainly on revenge, catharsis, what it means to be human and relationships.

 

“Paralytic Stalks” is not an album that I will play very often. It is simply too dark and chaotic to warrant complementing any of my regular moods.

 

But, given this, it is something I can appreciate. The sound reflects the emotions it intends to very well. It almost listens like the train of thought of someone being emotionally torn apart. So it won’t be on repeat anytime soon, but on a particularly bad day? Why not.

Rating: 3 out of 5