Of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic

Of Montreal
Satanic Panic in the Attic

Of Montreal’s debut album for Polyvinyl Records is a simple exercise in bright, energetic-if somewhat vapid-pop music. The band’s slackerish indie tendencies often undercut some of its better rhythmic and melodic ideas, as does the compressed, muted sound of the mix. At times, though, genuine inspiration breaks through on Satanic Panic in the Attic. “City Bird” is a nice example of a British Invasion ballad, flute solo and all. As on that song, the harmonies work better on slower songs, where otherwise they sound tossed together and off-key.
Nevertheless, this album is full of life. Charming touches of new-wave and Britpop sprinkle the album liberally, played off with skill but without undue reverence. Unlike most of the band’s Elephant 6 colleagues, Of Montreal’s members unafraid to be true more to themselves than their references, although the references are all over the album. (“Vegan in Furs” is a song title worthy of Morrissey and The Smiths, nicely updated for the new millennium, and includes a subtle little nod to “Fame” by David Bowie.) What they have very much in common, however, is a preference of style over substance, or at very least a style that masks substance.
What distinguishes this record most of all is the really startling complexity of the arrangements, all crammed into a narrow 8-track sound. The album is worth repeated listening just to pick out and unpack all the little bits and pieces of instrumentation that slip by you on the first listen.
Of Montreal is probably among the best at what the band does, but as long as so many indie-pop artists continue to see themselves as curators of an older sounds rather than artists, something will always seem to be lacking. The New York punks are gone, and so is the British Invasion. On the other hand, who can argue with an expert three-minute pop song? In this vein, Satanic Panic in the Attic is a real treat, but it’ll leave you still looking for a little something more.