"My British Tour Diary" /
To begin with, Of Montreal isn't from Montreal at all -- they're from Athens, Georgia. And calling them "they" is a bit of a stretch, since the only person who's been in every incarnation of the band is front man and songwriter Kevin Barnes. That's most of what I know about this indie band, except that their (okay, his) songs are devilishly catchy and danceable.
This track from 2004's Satanic Panic in the Attic gives you a good idea of their crisp pop spirit. Granted, the lyrics are self-referential ("Hanging out with Steven Drew, Theo, / Paul and Sorrel too / Eating at Welcome Breaks daily / We danced in Leeds with Brit Pop Haley") but it's propelled by a cheery backbeat rhythm that's hard to resist. That bass line is so darn funky, it really betrays their Athens roots. Barnes' boyish vocals let him get away with murder, really: "On our trip to England I noticed something obscene / People still actually give a shit about the Queen." Oh, you irreverent Yanks.
One thing he does capture in this song is the surreal quality of life on tour, mixed up with a dose of culture shock: "Left alone to drive ourselves on the opposite side / Man it was a miracle that nobody died"; "Bitching because Steven booked us / On such early flights / Always in a foggy haze / Because we hadn't slept for days." I have a feeling that everybody in the band remembers incidents like "Every single one of our London cabbies played / The most truly repellent techno music ever made / But they'll drop you without hesitation / If you try changing the station." I imagine it as a scene out of Hard Days Night, mixed with a little Trainspotting.
"Up to our necks in crisps and litter / In the van we dubbed the Gary Glitter," he recalls at the end, almost fondly. This is what it's like to travel with your bandmates when being a rock musician is still exciting and new, and I dig being brought along for the ride. Despite the electronic gloss of their sound, they've got too much youthful energy to sound like robots. Apparently there are other Of Montreal albums where Kevin Barnes gets depressive -- but if that's so, I'm happy to stick to this one. (Other favorite tracks: the wistful psychedelic "Will You Come and Fetch Me?" and the jazzy "Spike the Senses.") It's a mere pop confection --but some days, that's just what I want.
My British Tour Diary sample