There’s something so sweetly vintage about Of Montreal–they release albums as much as Mother Nature releases solstices, it seems. And not only have they never failed to deliver, their artwork (long decried dead with the birth of the CD by hardcore audiophiles) is enough to purchase the album alone, just like those gigantic 45’s you explore in the night under your desk-lamp while you rock those gigantic headphones. And, what else to be expected from an E6 collective, they’re all blissful pop passages, only recently coalescing their Zombies pop with any semblance of modern technology on last year’s Satanic Panic in the Attic, a breakthrough masterpiece of manic pop, disco, and world beat. Panic was so energetic and detailed that its disorienting dizziness was an acquired taste–once you worked through the initial shock of hearing it, it became 2004’s most pleasant surprise.
So, it’s a bit odd that in the wake of the success Panic received for its chaotic nature, its follow-up The Sunlandic Twins comes with a composed, direct opener–the charming “Requiem for O.M.M,” with which Barnes puts his boyish heart on the line “I never ever stop wondering / Wondering if you still think of us / I don’t need a photograph / ‘Cause you never left my mind.” But it’s no indicator of a return to the simpler Of Montreal–The Sunlandic Twins furthers the exploration begun on Panic, concentrating its abstract energy in more tightly knit arrangements, still finding time to take the frequent left turns that brought them such recognition last year. Welcome to the alternate universe of Kevin Barnes, a veritable candyland of sweet harmonies and idiosyncratic arrangements. “Forecast Fascist Future” begins something like Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” before working its way into a delayed, multi-harmonious frenzy where exactly 10,000 Barnes’ revel in their psychosis together, finally ending with the mantra “May we never go-go mental / May we always stay-stay gentle.”
And though the further development the band takes occasionally veers into awkward territory, Barnes for the most part hits his mark admirably. “The Party’s Crashing Us” is a wonderful beach bash, balancing angular new wave rhythmics until everything settles in the chorus, where Barnes declares “Well I only feel alright when the view is flashing / Alarms going off in my head.” The album begins strong, spinning wondrously creative party anthems but takes an odd twist, closing with a questionably dark slew of songs while leaving four true gems for a bonus disc to accompany it. Replacing the last four songs with the tracks on the bonus disc would benefit The Sunlandic Twins greatly, but the sudden drop of energy the album suffers hurts its overall atmosphere and detracts from its pervading energy. The band crashes under their recent sugar-binge, falling into a slow, methodical groove that accents the bands weaknesses rather then their strengths.
Of Montreal’s abstract creativity and playfullness is still addictive, and though they never reach the sublime heights of “Lysergic Bliss,” credit Kevin Barnes–creating not just an album, or niche, or even genre of their own; but an alternate world of Wonka-esque proportions. Where, on Friday nights, you can go to the local club and find all the kids on the dance floor, immersed in shades of blue flashing light with their arms up, all waiting for the beat to drop before singing in unison, “Let’s pretend we don’t exist / Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica.”