Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins

Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
Polyvinyl.  Four Stars.

I am fairly certain that if we were to capture and kill Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, and subsequently eat him, he would taste like cereal.  Pure, sugary, teeth-rotting FrankenBerry.  He’d turn the milk pink.  He wouldn’t cut the roof of the mouth, either.  Once we (and it’s always “we” in Barnes’ world) finish eating, he would run through our veins, giving us the most colorful infection ever.  While Kevin Barnes has always lived in the world of Saturday Morning Cartoons, The Sunlandic Twins feels more like the cover of a Trapper Keeper, circa 1988.
Despite the (only slightly) more straightforward leanings of previous album Satanic Panic in the Attic, The Sunlandic Twins feels like an all-night disco party on the set of Sesame Street.  Goofy pop moves in and out of each speaker, the kick drum constantly pulses behind the driving beats.  The delicious pop melodies that Barnes has crafted a name for himself with are still present, they’re just pasted onto a new landscape, and it initially takes a bit of an adjustment.  Once the jolt of hearing lines like “We make love like a pair of black wizards” over an open hi-hat dance beat subsides, The Sunlandic Twins reveals itself as almost as bonafide a pop gem as its predecessor.  It’s what would have happened if cocaine and mushrooms had been invented for children instead of businessmen and hippies, respectively.
Opening track “Requiem for O.M.M. 2” jumps like classic Of Montreal from bouncy melody to Moog solo while “I Was Never Young” features a mariachi horn section in its bridge.  It is not until “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” that the new, dark, electronic Of Montreal appears.  Barnes quietly muses “Let’s pretend we don’t exist/Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica” over a bassline that Interpol’s Carlos D wishes he had snuck on to Antics.  The vocal restraint is a shock from the man who is generally triple or quadruple tracked and giddily chanting over every song.  By using a calmer tone, Kevin Barnes finally comes across as human instead of the Bizarre Happy Pop Machine GO! that he usually is.  “Wraith” stands out as one of Sunlandic Twins’ best tracks mostly because of its contrast to the rest of Of Montreal‘s catalog.
Outside of Satanic Panic’s “City Bird”, the group has never really slowed down the million-miles-per-hour dance party, and when you get the crowd moving like they do, no one‘s going to complain.  But I suppose at some point the trance wears off and everyone moves to the after party.  The Sunlandic Twins features several quieter, more down-tempo pieces, including the gorgeous “Oslo in the Summertime”.  In “Oslo”, Barnes recalls the journey he made with his wife to her homeland of Norway to enjoy the country‘s socialized medicine and give birth to their daughter, Alabee.  The entirely synthetic beat sounds like a day spent in bed drinking NyQuil, reflecting on past vacations and missed opportunities with feelings of reminiscence rather than regret.   Despite the lack of any recognizable instruments and the lucid dream lyricism, “Oslo” registers as beautifully hazy and depressing song.  Its calm bass throbs the album to sleep, as do the last two tracks.  Indeed, nearly all of Sunlandic’s second half gives us a Kevin Barnes that is simultaneously obsessed with Queen and quiet.  The album closes with “The Repudiated Immortals” and its lush, “Bohemian Rhapsody”-esque harmonies.  As it softly but suddenly ends, The Sunlandic Twins lulls its listeners to bed, tummies full of sugarplums and minds full of cartoon characters, Casio keyboards waiting for the sun to come up so the kids will come out and play.

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