Local Wire

Of Montreal

When Kevin Barnes started Of Montreal in the mid-1990s, he was a bit late to the Athens, GA, scene's retro pop-rock party. At that time, Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Olivia Tremor Control ruled the roost of the ripening Elephant 6 Collective, beguiling indie-rock audiences and tastemakers by cannily recontextualizing Nixon-era psych, Beatlemania's lighter side, and tape splicing/manipulation for the Nirvana generation. Today, with Elephant 6 only nominally a movement and its most revered flagships in (or just emerging from) indefinite hibernation, Of Montreal's relative stock has risen. It doesn't hurt that Barnes — who at this point writes, performs, and records all of the group's music himself — is a changeling-cum-workhorse whose never-ebbing, frustratingly catchy flood of singles, albums and EPs has increasingly strayed from the standard-issue Anglo E6 M.O. to seamlessly and tantalizingly incorporate African polyrhythms, funk, disco, and techno. While 2005's The Sunlandic Twins didn't crack traditional rock radio, two of its songs surfaced in NASDAQ and Outback Steakhouse television ads this year. The new Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? forgoes Barnes' usual glee-club geek cheek to stew in some autobiographical darkness from a rough patch in his marriage; the music, composed during the crisis period, is so relentlessly peppy and driving despite its subject matter that the resulting disconnect entertains even while jabbing a nerve.
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Ray Cummings