Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2007-01-24 - San Diego City Beat

Worldview askew

Of Montreal sells out on its way to the Hall of Fame

It always happens. You finally think you've got the world figured out and then--wham!--you're hit with some new piece of information so messed up it makes you call into question everything you thought you'd already figured out. Like, say you learn that the Athens-based, space-glitterati rockers Of Montreal are going to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, joining such luminaries as Travis Tritt and Peabo Bryson. Or that the band's song "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)" is featured in a commercial for Outback Steakhouse.

Now don't get your worldview in a tizzy. There are perfectly good and rational explanations for these things (the South's growing liberalism and copious drug use), but, before we explain the Hall of Fame/Outback thing, first let's take care of a few journalistic details indispensable to the story.

Yes, Of Montreal's new album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer (out this week on Polyvinyl) is an excellent slice of post-Bowie, post-Prince, post-New Order disco-pop-indie-funk about singer-guitarist Kevin Barnes' crazy, messed-up life. Barnes wrote, produced and performed the whole album and, no, it's not as good as their 2004 album, Satanic Panic in the Attic.

Now let's get your understanding of the world back on track.

"They're trying to recognize some younger bands," says Barnes about the Hall of Fame. "We'll be in there with James Brown, Little Richard, R.E.M. I think it's indicative of how things have changed over the last few years. At one point a band like The Flaming Lips would have been total pariahs, but now the former counter-culture has just melted into the mainstream."

When he says it like that, doesn't the induction make sense? I mean, who are Of Montreal if not a loving amalgam of James Brown's beats, Little Richard's eye shadow and R.E.M.'s hooks. But what about the Outback jingle?

"When Outback approached me, I was in this really weird state of mind where I was so indifferent I didn't really care," Barnes says. "I was pretty heavily medicated with antidepressants that were pushing me in this weird direction. I was very indifferent, very detached. It was helping me with all this anxiety and paranoia and this crazy depression stuff, but it made me make a bad decision."

Barnes was originally quick to defend selling the song to Outback but now believes it was a huge mistake--which is still strange considering he and his fans don't mind that he sold another song to NASDAQ. After getting a few drugs out of his system and reading a shitload of hate mail, he realized that steakhouse theme songs aren't something he wants to do in the future.

Of Montreal plays with The Blow at Soma on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Doors open at 7 p.m. $15. 619-226-7662.

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