Kevin Barnes used to write songs that shrouded reality in Roald Dahl-style indie rock fairytales, but the pressures of marriage and fatherhood have manifested themselves in some very dark and personal ways with the five songs that make up the Icons, Abstract Thee EP. At times he surpasses the threshold of comfortable listening. But it is human nature to hold rapt attention over such drama and Barnes’ beautiful train wreck of a failed domestic life has become fantastical pop fodder.
An air of tabloid obsession churns in “Du Og Meg” as he lays out what could have been an ideal family life. But as “Derailments in a Place of Our Own” and “Miss Blonde Your Papa is Falling” unfold, the good life turns bad. The arrangements are sparse and plodding by comparison to OM’s heretofore quirky presence and the effects are chilling.
These outtakes from Hissing Fauna… fit together with voyeuristic intrigue. The flawed protagonist tells his story with the same damning lens that captures Britney, Paris, TomKat and Brangelina in the supermarket check-out line. The only difference here is that the tell-all exposés on Icons… are autobiographical. Barnes rakes his own muck to turn his shortcomings into sensationalism.
The percussive weight of “No Conclusion” brings everything to a close with bleak revelation. Barnes sings, “I’ve never been honest with anyone” before unleashing a stream of bleeding-heart emotions. He boldly announces that he’s being disingenuous, but his songs and stories are so seductive that it’s impossible not to be sucked-in.