Monday, 18 October 2010

Of Montreal @ Academy 2, Thursday 7th October

Of Montreal hit Manchester Academy 2 on the 7th October for what was a colourful showcase of their extravagant neo-psychedelia, funk and indie-pop. Brendan McFadden describes their lavish carnival mix of 7-foot monsters, theatrical face paint, glitter and confetti.

The American band that hails from Athens, Georgia bring a brand of music that takes its best serving of influences from 60s groups The Beatles, Kinks and Jefferson Airplane mixed with a modern twist of Prince and the Arcade Fire. Their eyebrow raising energetic stage show is reminiscent of The Flaming Lips and is a full-on bombardment of the strange and the wonderful. Flamboyant singer Kevin Barnes, the ringleader of this spectacle, marches around the stage clad in a miniskirt bandana and purple tights broadcasting a confident falsetto.

A strange story envelops the stage, involving strange beasts who dance, prance and fight - it has no plot but is mesmerising all the same. At one point a creature fires its toy gun into the crowd and then grapples with another monster who is wearing a gas mask. Providing this entertainment are two dancers/performers who wear everything from banana heads to gas masks, straitjackets and angel wings. The group’s eight musicians are reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in their outfits, topped with pale theatrical face paint. Watching it all pan out you almost feel like you are Hunter S Thompson in Fear In Loathing In Las Vegas; all of this said, it is a somewhat tamed down performance; Barnes has been known to enter the stage bereft of clothes and riding a horse.

This is as a decent showcase of the group’s more recent material and there's room for many tracks from their recently released album, False Priest. Latest single, ‘Coquet Coquet’, finds appreciative heads in the three-quarter-full crowd nodding in sync. It is a performance that’s full of upbeat funky beats cemented by a loud backing of guitars, violins, keyboards and decoders. A particular highlight is ‘An Eluardian Instance’, one of the group’s bigger hits that sees them jumping up and down on the stage while a pig-headed beast tosses confetti into the grateful crowd.

It is a non-stop fluent flow of music that's lively and upbeat with a fun factor of ten. Of Montreal’s energetic tempo immerses you like a warm blanket, but it’s disappointing to see that sometimes their strident songs manage to get lost in the fusion of noise. At stages tracks become clouded together and it’s hard to distinguish one from the next as you are bombarded by large choruses (like in ‘Enemy Gene’) that explode in a foray of jarring noise; it’s as if their medley of songs becomes a jamming session, which by the end had lost my concentration. In a way the performance overcasts the music, and the melodies become lost amidst the cavalcading atmosphere.

Having just released their tenth studio album they are still pushing boundaries, though, and it’s fair to say they will be around for a little while yet. Of Montreal are a party-band that blast you into an unknown galaxy at warp speed and you will fail to find another stage show quite like it.

Words & Pictures: Brendan Mcfadden

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