How far Of Montreal have come since releasing Cherry Peel way back in 1997. In the fifteen years, and eleven albums, since Kevin Barnes and his motley supporting cast of musical misfits took their first steps away from their humble Elephant 6 collective beginnings, they’ve taken in a diverse, disparate array of styles. From the psychedelic-infused tweeness of their early releases through to the space-age pomp of their 2007 magnum opus Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer, Barnes has presented himself and his troupe of musical vagabonds as a consistently evolving tour de force of indie rock weirdness. However, in the post-Hissing Fauna years, this progression seems to have ever so slightly faltered; 2008’s Skeletal Lamping and 2010’s False Priest showed a band unsure as to how to move past the style of Hissing Fauna in an effective way. While the old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ is often true; it’s never been a phrase too closely associated with Barnes and co’s collective mindset.

Paralytic Stalks finds itself in an awkward position then; should it be something that breaks new ground enough to justify itself critically against the group’s pre-2007 masterstrokes or should it maintain enough of a certain formulaic Of Montreal approach to please more regressive listeners. Paralytic Stalks neither achieves nor fails to meet either of these criteria; instead it places itself in an awkward hinterland between progression and regression.

A preliminary listen to the record reveals Of Montreal’s calling cards in droves; ‘Ye, Renew the Plaintiff’ recalls the breezy yet warped sunshine pop of The Sunlandic Twins’ centrepiece ‘So Begins Our Alabee’ while the album’s closing two tracks, ‘Exorcismic Breeding Knife’ and ‘Authentic Pyrrhic Remission,’ immediately bring to mind the sample-based weirdness of 1999’s Gay Parade or 2001’s Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies, albeit filtered through the afrobeat, glam and krautrock that they’ve been dabbling with since Hissing Fauna.

This sense of reminiscence isn’t necessarily a bad quality however, particularly if you’re already a devotee to the Of Montreal canon, and if there’s one thing that is Paralytic Stalks’ saving grace then it’s Kevin Barnes himself. Fifteen years of ceaseless songwriting, recording and touring have, along with his exposure to Elephant 6 no doubt, taught Barnes how to write a solid and different pop song; the perfect example of this being the album’s lead single ‘Dour Percentage’. It’s standard Of Montreal through-and-through; pompously strutting on the cusp between genius and madness and not caring on which side it falls.

There are moments on Paralytic Stalks that attempt new things; play yourself the first twenty seconds of ‘Wintered Debt’ and I’ll challenge anyone who claims to have not needed to double-check that it’s not Elliott Smith whispering at them from inside their speakers. These moments of divergence away from an all too familiar Of Montreal blueprint are sadly fleeting however and it’s quickly back to that ‘here’s one I made earlier’ way of thinking.

Ultimately, there’s a fine line between something being a definitive or derivative iteration of their creator; and the elusive tonic between the two is quality. So, on which side of the fence does Paralytic Stalks sit? The answer, realistically, is going to be a subjective one, based on how highly you relate to this particular suite of songs. My two cents on it though is that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.