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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Satanic Panic in the Triple Rock



I’ve always been a fan of Of Montreal, but Satanic Panic in the Attic surprised the shit out of me. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was 2004’s best album. Now, stop for a minute and consider what I just said. Yes, an album full of light-hearted, sugary pop songs by a band that wears its influences on its sleeves one-upped Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles, Architecture in Helsinki’s Fingers Crossed, and Arcade Fire’s Funeral. That is quite a feat.

The line they walk is very, very thin, but Of Montreal succeeds where so many bands have failed. Many bands have tried the quirky, playful indie pop thing, and although they can be fun, most of them can’t be taken seriously (e.g., The Polyphonic Spree). Many bands have worked really hard to assemble and modernize bits and pieces of previous generations’ musical styles, but most do not have the ability to make the sum greater than its parts (e.g. The Strokes). Of Montreal draws from a large palette, but the end result is so brilliant that it is capable of influencing its influences. Even Brian Wilson could learn a thing or two from Of Montreal. Some bands are extremely innovative and approach pop music from zany directions, but unfortunately, they lose the attention of the general population along the way (e.g., The Unicorns). Satanic is just as innovative and off-the-wall as anything The Unicorns have ever done, but at the same time, it’s as immediate and accessible as Weezer’s blue album. Yeah, Kevin Barnes is an exceptional composer, and his craft was definitely perfected with Satanic Panic in the Attic.

But the goodness doesn’t stop there. Of Montreal is also an incredible live band. And they proved that fact last Saturday at the Triple Rock. They were touring in support of their recently released album, The Sunlandic Twins. A new album? I wasn’t even over Satanic Panic in the Attic yet. But I guess you can never have too much of a good thing. It’s unfair to compare the new album to Satanic, but it is on par with all of their other albums (which means it’s really, really good). The Sunlandic Twins really expanded on the dancier moments of Satanic Panic in the Attic, and last weekend’s show definitely reflected that. The audience came ready to dance.

Askeleton was the first opener. I swear, they have a different sound every time I see them. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have a different lineup of band members every time I see them. Or maybe it has something to do with the tendency for synth-pop bands to morph into guitar-rock bands for the sake of an interesting live show. Either way, their set was very enjoyable. I’m looking forward to their new album.

Next up was the Omaha-invasion band, Tilly and the Wall. I feel compelled to dismiss Tilly and the Wall as another gimmicky novelty act (they use a tap dancer instead of a drum set). But I just can’t bring myself to be “too cool” for Tilly and the Wall; their show was way too fun. The tap dancer worked very well, and she ensured that there was never a dull moment on stage. Every single song was memorable and entertaining. During one of their songs, they invited a couple audience members to come on stage and play the mandolin and bass guitar (they said they met them on the internet – as one of the band members remarked, “How 2005.”) They ended on their song, “Reckless,” during which they invited the entire audience to dance on the stage. It was a sold-out show, so obviously, not everyone could fit on the stage. But it did seem like more people were on the stage than on the floor. It was quite the spectacle.

It had been about a year since I saw Of Montreal at the 7th St. Entry. Since then, I’ve probably listened to Satanic Panic in the Attic about 3682 times. So I was pretty excited to see Of Montreal again. I think a lot of other people were too, judging by the audience’s uninhibited dancing. It was the natural response to the energy in the music. Of Montreal mostly played songs off of Satanic and The Sunlandic Twins, but during Kevin Barnes’ wardrobe changes, the rest of the Elephant 6ers in the band got a chance to play some of their own stuff. Very good. I was still sweating like an ape from dancing by the time Of Montreal came back to play an encore. During the encore, they played an awesome version of Supergrass’s “Alright.” It’s a gutsy move to cover a contemporary band, especially for an encore. But they’re Of Montreal – if anyone can pull it off, they can. And to please the geeks like me, they ended with some old-school Of Montreal: “You Are an Airplane” (OK, maybe 1997 isn’t technically old-school, but it’s all relative). Ahhh, I love Of Montreal.

Oh, but there’s more. When I got home from the show, I could hear music coming from down the street. This is what I heard: “I am still livin’ with your ghost. Lonely and dreamin’ of the West Coast…” I decided that I might as well go down the block to see Everclear. Even though snow had been falling throughout the day, there were still tons of people partying outside for the U of M’s Spring Jam festival. I guess cheesy, burnt-out alt-rock bands can have that effect on people. I arrived in time for Everclear’s last two songs – both covers (Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” and Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny”). It was really interesting to see the crowd (and the riot police), but I can’t write a serious review of the show because very few bands could be expected to successfully follow Of Montreal.

I’ve gotten into the habit of writing about shows a week after they happen. Sorry about that. Maybe a week from now, you can read about the Melt-Banana show that I’ll be attending tomorrow night!

3 Comments:

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