Lots more MP3s.
Three days of being outside in the heat is a long time. When I woke up Sunday morning, I was still tired and vaguely hungover, and the weatherman was telling me it was going to rain. Fun! Thoughts drifted back to Lollapalooza 2005 and how everything was squashed together in half the real estate over two days. Less walking, fewer skippable timeslots. But hey, America thrives on Growth at all costs, so stop your whining, you little commie!
Expect Lollapalooza 2012 to stretch from Soldier Field to Foster Beach and last from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Redwalls, Ben Kweller, and Death Cab will be the only three bands to have played all eight years!
So anyway, all week I’d been getting these spammish invitations to the “ck one music lounge” at the Hard Rock Hotel. There were promises of free booze, air conditioning, and a “gift suite.” I saw the episode of the Sopranos where Chrissy hangs out with Ben Kingsley, so I wanted to at least try to score a free PSP. Right?
As you might have guessed, no such luck. After waiting behind some blatantly Hot Topic-styled “Rock Stars” we got to the front of the line where the hostess took one look at me and asked, “Media?” Obviously not “Artist.” I got my pass and went to the lounge and got hassled by the bartender for my I.D. He was such a dick I initially thought he was just joking around with me. After conferring with another bartender (no shit!), he finally relented and gave me a bottle of Italian beer. Thanks a lot, jackass.
There were some hot dogs and pinball machines and video games and beanbag chairs, and an absolute lack of any schwag worth carrying. I chugged my beer, grabbed a tiny sample bottle of CK Be and a pack of Ask the Kabala oracle cards (I’m not kidding) to prove to my non-VIP pals what they were missing, and we got the hell out of there before the “Kill Hannah DJ Set” started. Oy.
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.”
Fueled by love, frosted with joyous psychedelia, and infused with subtle percussive polyrhythms, Satanic Panic in the Attic (review) has already been getting word of mouth buzz as one of the best records of the year. Now, fanning the flames of fame as a flamboyantly flexible sextet extended by blends of friends, Of Montreal proudly un-frowns wowed crowds with stridently styled guile. Surreally appealing, with skits that are scene stealing, the band deals a meal of real rock and roll with more than a feeling. Why did they wish again to come to Michigan? Climbing the ladder and connecting the dots, Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes surveys the scene, selflessly soliloquizes on the folly of bucolic solitude, and takes pains to explain why he would like to write music that changes your month.
Brian Wilson was once asked if he knew that he’d inspired a new generation of musicians, specifically the Elephant 6 collective. He responded, “Who? I only listen to oldies but goodies.”
For anyone wondering, the Elephant 6 collective is a group of bands that had personal ties to each other and usually collaborated in both recording and touring. Neutral Milk Hotel, Beulah, The Ladybug Transistor, and The Apples in Stereo (amongst others) are all associated with Elephant 6 in varying degrees. Recently the collective decided to call it quits and Of Montreal, another group associated with Elephant 6, signed with Polyvinyl Records to release Satanic Panic in the Attic, the group’s sixth album.
Panic is a dizzying effort, sounds erupt from every angle, disorienting the listener. Of Montreal evokes the same indie-pop stylings of all their earlier work, but now infuses a more world-music influence along with hints of new-wave. Panic, really, isn’t too far from a freeze headache. There are moments where Panic becomes too much—so much saccharine attacking the taste buds that you feel like you need a breather. You rarely get it, however, and the unrelenting energy on Panic, once you become accustomed to it, is part of the record’s charm.
Despite occasional moments of excess, Satanic Panic in the Attic is a wonderful mushroom-trip of a record. While trippy indie-pop isn’t anything new right now, Panic is interesting enough to demand a listen. Mr. Wilson, wake up to the new millennium. Pet Sounds may be the best, but somewhere a high-school student might listen to Satanic Panic in the Attic and discover the timelessness of classic pop for the first time. If it happens to lead them back towards the “oldies but goodies,” more power to ’em.