The most memorable musical movement of the late nineties was arguably the Elephant Six collective. Instead of attempting to create futuristic sounding records with advanced forms of technology, bands like Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel and flagship band The Apples in Stereo drew inspiration from psychedelic bands of the sixties to create lo-fi pop symphonies that were at once innovative and reminiscent of bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Other bands, like Elf Power, Beulah, The Minders and Of Montreal, followed suit, keeping the psychedelic spirit alive whilst incorporating their own stylistic individualism into the 4-track indie pop formula. But, alas, many of these groups have since broken up and the collective, as we know it, has dissolved.
Fortunately, a few key players are still active, continuing to put out similarly fuzzy, slightly trippy pop records like they did six years ago. The Minders and Elf Power recently put out new records, but, surprisingly, the best new outing from the former Elephant Six bunch is Of Montreal’s Satanic Panic in the Attic.
In the past, Of Montreal’s records were fun and whimsical, but not nearly as accessible as, say, an Apples in Stereo record. This is where Satanic Panic differs from other Of Montreal records. Where The Gay Parade was seen by Of Montreal fans as their crowning moment, Satanic Panic is one of the band’s only records with the potential to win over those without a fetish for ramshackle tin pan alley concept records.
The music on Satanic Panic in the Attic runs a wide range of genres. The most striking addition to the group’s psychedelic sound is the prevalence of analog synthesizers, as heard in the infectious album opener, “Disconnect the Dots,” and the manic dance party vibe of “Rapture Rapes the Muses.” But most of the album revisits the sound Of Montreal is known for, only recorded on better equipment, played on louder instruments and written more tightly. “Your Magic is Working” is Beatlesque pop played with jazzy chords. “Lysergic Bliss” marries Beach Boys harmonies with Kinks-like guitar and piano melodies. “Will You Come and Fetch Me” teeters between a silly toy piano verse and a driving full-band chorus.
While there aren’t any bad songs on Panic, the strongest moments are the ones in which the band’s songwriting is at its prettiest. “Climb a Ladder” sees the band singing gorgeous, melancholy vocal harmonies, while “Eros’ Entropic Tundra” is led by some surprisingly ethereal guitar. The most glorious moment on the album, however, comes in “City Bird,” which sees the typically multi-layered Of Montreal reduced to a basic acoustic guitar and vocals combo, with some flute during the bridge.
It’s no surprise that Satanic Panic in the Attic is a dense, creative, whimsical batch of songs. But for once, it sounds like the band has actually decided to let everyone else in on their little secret.
The Lilys – The 3-Way
The Apples in Stereo – Tone Soul Evolution
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.