Of Montreal: “I Was Never Young”
Returning to dip once again into the bands of the Elephant 6 collective (see my previous posts on Olivia Tremor Control and the Apples in Stereo), today I bring you the indie-disco-pop stylings of Of Montreal (not many opportunities in the English language to have “of of” used in a grammatically correct sentence, so enjoy it while you can). That description of the band (actually, primarily singer and songwriter Kevin Barnes with a variety of different lineups) isn’t really accurate for all of their albums, as Barnes tends to experiment with different styles on each album, but it fits for 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, a great album full of catchy songs influenced in equal portions by ’60s British pop, disco, and glam rock.
I first heard Of Montreal when I saw them play live in Cambridge, MA, at the Middle East, opening for the Lilys (Elf Power, yet another Elephant 6 band, was also an opener). They were good, certainly, but I have to admit that it didn’t really stick enough for me to follow up on their albums. However, fast-forward a few years to an afternoon at Seattle’s Bumbershoot music festival, circa 2006, sitting on the lawn and waiting for a band that I can no longer recall. And although I no longer remember who I was waiting for, I do remember that over the loudspeakers was playing a great series of songs — I just couldn’t place the band, but I was very intrigued. So I made a point of remembering a few of the lyrics and when I got home did a search and came up with the fact that they’d been playing Of Montreal’s The Sunlandic Twins.
Among the best of the songs on that album is “I Was Never Young,” which begins with an odd chant of some sort but then kicks into a disco beat and guitar strum, with a somewhat cold, futuristic vocal refrain of “I was never young!” like something by Gary Numan. Moments later, though, we get harmonies and melodic changes that bring to mind the Zombies and the Beach Boys. It seems all over the place on paper, but Barnes and company make it all work in a seamless melange of highly danceable sound.