Album Review : Of Montreal – The Gay Parade (1999)

“Tulip Baroom, though you are four walls you don’t make a room.”

aarefgayparade

Rating : 9/10

Released in 1999 by Of Montreal, one of the many indie bands that belong to the E6 collective, ‘The Gay Parade’ is one of the albums that strongly kicked me out of my “there-is-no-good-music-today” mentality. True, it definitely incorporates 60’s elements, and traces of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Zombies or The Kinks can be easily spotted, but they are filtered through the band leader’s, Kevin Barnes’, ambitious artistic approaches. But what exactly are these artistic approaches anyway? Well, he tries to create this goofy, funny, joyful, carefree, seen-through-the-eyes-of-a-child atmosphere by using a series of unrelated, silly beyond belief characters. Keep in mind that most of the album’s charm lies in that particular atmosphere and absolutely none of it is meant to be taken seriously. Also, don’t buy this if you don’t have much tolerance for silliness.

A first thing that may catch your attention when first listening to the album are those silly little gimmicks that keep popping up from time to time. Things like sound effects (the siren ring or the clinks from ‘Jaques Lamure’) or silly backing vocals (the intro of ‘Neat Little Domestic Life’ or the outro to ‘My Favourite Boxer’). Normally, they would be annoying, but given the already-described atmosphere the album tries to create, they only add to it, fitting in there perfectly.

But let’s take a look at the songs themselves, all of which are penned and sung by Kevin. And the guy’s definitely got a good ear for melody, because almost every single one of them is memorable and bound to get stuck in your head for days. Take for example the bouncy and colourful ‘Tulip Baroo’ and its “clanky-clank-clank” rhythm section. Or the exuberant, hyperactive, optimistm-filled ‘Fun Loving Nun’. And let’s not forget the album opener, an accessible, beautiful piano-driven tune called ‘Old Familiar Way’. If I were to pick three highlights, those would be my choices (the fact that they are placed next to each other only makes things better). But of course, yours might be the music-hall influenced ‘Advice from a Divorced Gentleman to His Bachelor Friend Considering Marriage’ and its absolutely hilarious subject matter; the atmospheric, deliberatly-overdramatized ‘A Man’s Life Flashing…'(fuck it, I’m not typing the whole title) or the funky ‘My Favourite Boxer’ with its excellent guitar-bass interplay.

Mind you, not everything’s one huge goofball, though. There are a bit of moody, melancholic-getting-very-close-to-sad moments as well. The nostalgic ‘The Autobiographical Grandpa’ would be the obvious example. Or the emotional coda in ‘A Collection Of Poems About Water’. Only the coda though, as the rest of the song’s atmosphere varies from hysterical (the “gaily gaily glee” part) to mystical (the “me and my pussy cat” bit) before finally settling down into the aforementioned section, thus creating what seems to be the album’s most interesting song. Perhaps they’re meant to be taken seriously, perhaps they’re not. That’s up to you to decide. Me, I’m just fascinated to see the album covering so many genres and moods without losing a single ounce of its identity.

In the end, even though neither do I consider it to be worthy of a ‘9.5’ rating (‘Nickee Coco and The Invisible Tree’ and ‘My Friend Will Be Me’ certainly don’t help; the only two songs I could never stomach) and nor do I really agree with the “modern Sgt. Pepper” label, this is still a brilliant little album from an ambitious band, whose next records I look forward to reviewing.

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3 replies

  1. ‘Nickee Coco and The Invisible Tree” is my favorite song here!!!

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  2. Oh I love early Of Montreal! This is an amazing gem of perfect crafted baroque pop tunes. I’d give it a 9, too. Their total masterpiece to me is the next one, ‘Coquelicot….’ , another even more superb collection of pop wonders, but a lot more weird and dabbling a lot more in psychedelia. Too bad their most recent stuff pretty much stinks, to my ears…

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    • Thanks for commenting. Coquelicot indeed has some amazing stuff on it, though I feel it’s a bit too long (the damn piano instrumental is way overkill for a pop album, wouldn’t you say?). I’ll admit that I haven’t really listened to it in a while and I need to get some of their more recent stuff. Satanic Panic In The Attic is one I love unconditionally, though. What are your thoughts on that one?

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