A continuation and maturation of the playfulness exhibited on earlier releases, Of Montreal
create the brand of theatrical psychedelic pop that many of their '60s predecessors hinted at but only few achieved. Overall less overtly rock-influenced than either Cherry Peel
or Horse and Elephant Eatery
, Kevin Barnes continues to change chords with nearly every word, twirling Vaudevillian melodies that incredibly bring to life all the whimsy and melancholy of the characters he carefully orchestrates. Though these characters don't yet take on the florid personalities that would be found in later Of Montreal
albums, Barnes nonetheless proved himself an adept illustrator, as he charted the dizzying highs of infatuation, the leveling off of emotion, and the devastating collapse of a relationship with a picturesque precision. Still sweetly naïve with the swinging skiffle pop of "One of a Very Few of a Kind" and the gorgeously complex melodies of "Happy Yellow Bumblebee," the latter finding the narrator becoming a bee, befriending beetles and centipedes, avoiding spiders, and getting lonely because his parents are dead and his brothers and sisters are nowhere to be found, the absurdity of the songwriting never grows tiresome. Even so, understated gloominess creeps into tracks with the dark piano strikes of "Panda Bear" and the sprightly "It's Easy to Sleep When You're Dead," although the narrator escapes with the conclusion that life is a better choice in the end. Overall, an album that marked a crucial stage in the evolution from the lo-fi garage pop of Cherry Peel
to the ambitious rock carnival of The Gay Parade
and cemented Of Montreal
's status as one of the most creatively relevant groups of the late '90s.