Of Montreal

Satanic Panic in the Attic

(Polyvinyl; 2004)

By Joe Frankland | 20 November 2007

Start with a guitar and a few rhythmic bass lines. Add a synthesizer, some sporadic piano, an occasional faux-techno beat, and Kevin Barnes’ melodic, sunny day poetry. Wrap the whole thing in Beatles/Beach Boys-esque pop-rock and aural soma, and you’ve got Satanic Panic In The Attic. Within the first eight seconds of “Disconnect The Dots” you’ve already got it figured out. You’re in for something different.

Satanic Panic In The Attic is the latest addition to Of Montreal’s six album catalog, which includes numerous re-releases, a tour only release (Then Who Will Protect Big Oil, Our Children?), some old four track recordings and probably just about everything else the band has ever put on tape.

Quality is definitely better than quantity, and Of Montreal’s six albums released over the course of seven years is no exception. In the past I’ve found that their stuff was laden with a steadfast “we must be retro” mentality. All of their older albums consisted of a few really good tracks and a whole lot of filler. I’m not saying that I didn’t give The Gay Parade or Aldhil’s Arboretum a spin here and there — they just weren’t among my favorites. But however useless some of Of Montreal’s older stuff may have been, they managed to add something new to their sound. There was constant progress made toward improvement on every album until they finally got it. Their music took priority over idealism, resulting in Satanic Panic In The Attic being, by far, their best release yet.

The day that I got Satanic Panic, I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to give up 43:34 to Of Montreal. I wrote off the fine-tunings on all of the other albums as small attempts with no progress made, mostly because I didn’t realize what they were doing until I heard this record. My first reaction was “Huh?” I took the disc out of my cd player to make sure it was Of Montreal. It was. I never expected something so good to come from them; like I said, they always had their moments, but it was mostly just singles and filler before this point.

Surprisingly, what started strong stayed strong this time around. Experimentation away from the retro rock shell proves fruitful from the opening of “Disconnect The Dots,” and doesn’t take a break until it all ends with the crash of a gong in “Vegan In Furs.” Don’t get me wrong here, they didn’t completely do away with their former style; rather, they just ingeniously accentuate it with other influences — namely disco, rockabilly, and a little more jazz than usual. The outcome is a less redundant, more diverse, new and improved Of Montreal. Its good to see so much potential finally put to use, but if they’re not careful, this could be the beginning of another five-record stagnancy spree.