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Of Montreal - KOKO, London, 16/10/2008

  by Mark Rowland

published: 28 / 10 / 2008

Of Montreal - KOKO, London, 16/10/2008


At the London KOKO, Mark Rowland finds Athens, Georgia-based band Of Montreal's eccentric form of orchestral rock and stage theatricals occasionally becoming too pretentious for their own good, but overall totally riveting

There is a palpable air of anticipation clinging to the Londonn KOKO tonight. On-stage, Eugene McGuinness is playing his pleasant enough rockabilly-influenced indie songs, getting a few going, but failing to really penetrate the expectant mood of the crowd. People aren't interested in anything the support has to offer – they're here for the main event. The crowd spans the full range of the glam/grunge scale, from full-on glitter and make-up to the 'a bit unclean' look. Whatever their fashion choices, they are all here for Of Montreal, the decidedly un-Canadian band from Athens, Georgia. The band are not necessarily understood by casual listeners. Kevin Barnes' recent songs, though very melodic, veer off into different time signatures. Sounds and melodies appear and disappear before you have time to register them. The lyrics are absurdly abstract in one instant, uncomfortably confessional the next. Barnes also currently performs as an alter-ego called Georgie Fruit, a black transsexual who has become a man again, according to Barnes. As far as weird rock alter-egos go, it's right up there. Luckily, the majority of people here are full Of Montreal converts, so there should be no confused indifference here. Their current incarnation as a flamboyant electro-glam-art-rock-psychedelic-funk group is fairly recent. The band initially played lo-fi indie pop, which became orchestral indie pop, which became electronic indie pop. The kitchen sink art-funk Of Montreal really came together on previous album 'Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?' and has been taken to its logical conclusion on their latest, 'Skeletal Lamping', which isn't out yet, but will make up the bulk of Of Montreal's set. The band sans Barnes - Bryan Poole, Dottie Alexander, Jamey Huggins, Davey Pierce and Ahmed Gallab – take their positions on the stage and start playing. Barnes appears flanked by two gold things that look like traumatised Teletubbies, but on closer inspection appear to be Buddhas. Barnes is essentially dressed as Prince, all purple and frills. The band launch into recent single 'ID Engager' and the crowd finally gets to release their pent up energy. The next few songs are all crowd pleasers from the last few albums – 'So Begins Our Alabee' from 'Sunlandic Twins' 'She's a Rejecter' from 'Hissing Fauna...' – mixed in with new songs, most of which go down well with the crowd, a large proportion of which know the songs quite well. Songs like 'For Our Elegant Caste' captures the far-out funkiness of mid-80's Prince and merge it with Beatles-like harmonies and psychedelic rock. The lyrics are sexually charged nonsense, but in a good way. 'An Eluardian Instant' is exuberant, with a great synthetic horn part and an uplifting melody. All the while, we are treated to increasingly strange performance art from Of Montreal's 'dancers'. We see some anthropomorphic animals have a fight. We see people frozen on the spot and manipulated by the band members. We see more fat Buddha Teletubby things. On the back wall, psychedelic films and animation flicker ever onwards. You can accuse Of Montreal of many things, but not being boring. The incredibly Prince-y sex funk of 'Gallery Piece' is well received, perhaps due to its fairly straight, dance-able beat. 'Hissing Fauna...'s 'Heimdalsgate Like a Promeathean Curse' (I don't know what it means either), with it's “C'mon Chemicals” chorus, is one of the set's highlights, getting one of the best reactions from an already ecstatic crowd. The pummelling, distorted swirls of 'Nonpareil of Favor' are head-swimmingly loud, bringing to mind My Bloody Valentine with its sheer volume. Barnes disappears off-stage while the band play on and re-emerges wearing a gold robe. He is then de-robed as he sings, leaving him dressed in gold hotpants, a belt and little else. He's then laid down by his dancers and painted red. It becomes clear that this relates to the lyrics of the song Barnes is singing, with references to blushing all over his body. At this point, the show tips a little too far into the art side of their sound and as a result, the energy in the room wanes somewhat. It is a shame, because the energy and atmosphere has been so electric up to this point. That said, a slight break is welcome. Just before Of Montreal lose everyone completely with their more abstract tunes, they amp it up again. 'A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger' is particularly uplifting, with a huge chorus that people do their best to sing along to. To make sure that they go out with a bang, the band go for a cover as their last song – Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Everyone instantly goes nuts and, as confetti rains down on us all, all pretentiousness is forgiven.

Picture Gallery:-
Of Montreal - KOKO, London, 16/10/2008

Of Montreal - KOKO, London, 16/10/2008

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