Epic-length albums that can keep a listener’s attention for their duration are quite an accomplishment for an indie-rock band.
Of Montreal achieved this feat last year when they released Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse, a delightfully silly continuing story a la Ziggy Stardust.
The band takes a step backward however, with the release of Aldhils Arboretum.
The album is less than two-thirds the length of its predecessor and virtually dies after the first half.
Of Montreal has always sounded like an ultra quirky version of The Beatles. But this time, that charm wears off quickly.
Tricks from previous records are recycled, and frontman Kevin Barnes cannot resist singing songs about young women who have cute and funny little problems (“Predictably Sulking Sara”).
The album begins promisingly enough, despite the initial resemblance to The Rembrandts’ theme song for “Friends” in the first track “Doing Nothing.”
“Old People in the Cemetery” offers up Barnes’s familiar dose of sardonic whimsy with lines like, “Unable to come to terms with the fact that we’re all food for worms.”
The shortest song on the album, “Jennifer Louise,” is also the best.
It begins with a rollicking organ lick and brings the listener back from flatlining, if only for one minute and 59 seconds.
“Pancakes For One” and “We are Destroying the Song” revert back to snoozeville, despite their oh-so-hip titles.
“An Ode to the Nocturnal Muse” is a sort of defiance of the macabre.
Barnes laughs in the face of death with lyrics like, “We won’t notice we’re dead / we’ll be too busy dreaming.”
Following “Kissing in the Grass,” a pretty little song with piano and woodwinds, band members really let their hair down for the last two tracks.
But sorry hipsters; it’s too little, too late.