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Of Montreal | Aldhils Arboretum | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
Aldhils Arboretum (Kindercore)
by Brian Varney
Though what I don't know about the whole Elephant 6 phenomenon could just about be crammed into the Rose Bowl, the Athens address on the disc and the fact that this stuff sounds like Olivia Tremor Control led me to the E6 website, where, voila, Of Montreal is listed under the "extended family" section. What that means is a matter for further investigation, which didn't happen because I started following Sunshine Fix and Circulatory System (OTC side projects whose records I quite like) links and I forgot why I'd ventured into this unfamiliar territory in the first place. Goddamn Internet.
Aldhils Arboretum (I need to do another web search to figure out what the fuck that title is supposed to mean) played in the background while I was surfing and it seemed the ideal accompaniment for reading up on Elephant 6 bands and releases. A glance at the back cover, where song titles such as "Pancakes for One," "An Ode to the Nocturnal Muse," and "The Blank Husband Epidemic" glared twitchily back at me, brought home another connection to the E6 stuff that I had not yet been able to verbalize, which is the almost willful weirdness of so much of that stuff, as if the kids involved have gone to extreme lengths to make sure everything's as weird and psychedelic (crazy, man, crazy) as possible. When propped against the stark pop beauty of the music and stacked harmonies, the effect is a bit disorienting and/or, depending on how you feel about being confused, off-putting, which may very well have been one of the aims as well, but there are times when I do find myself becoming annoyed with it in sorta the same way I get annoyed with Goth kids who go to the grocery store wearing a cape and a skirt. I GET it, ok?
Of Montreal are certainly guilty of this sort of willful weirdness ("Kid Without Claws," indeed), but not enough to spoil the fun. If you like Olivia Tremor Control or either of the side projects I've already mentioned, you'll probably like this. This band, along with most of the other E6 stuff I've heard, seems to exist for no other reason than an attempt to write Smile, Brian Wilson's ill-fated, unfinished follow-up to Pet Sounds. That's certainly a lofty aim, so you can't fault these folks for lack of ambition, but at the same time, the result will only appeal to a very select audience (i.e., one that likes beautiful pop songs smothered in the various oddities, quirks, and idiosyncracies of someone that's losing his mind).
(PO Box 461 Athens, GA 30603)