If Of Montreal were just a little bit less edgy, they would be well established within mainstream pop by now, selling out Wembly Stadium and writing Christmas number ones. Their bio certainly reads like a recipe for such a career: formed in 1997 at the same time as Coldplay and Travis and just after Radiohead, Kevin Barnes and his musical entourage began releasing records full of alternative and melodic rock with the occasional bit of mad orchestration or trippy sampling thrown in to keep us on our toes. Since then, the band’s sound has become increasingly mature, and Innocence Reaches makes clear that this troupe of troubadours are now so comfortable with who they are and what their sound is that they can do pretty much anything they like.
The record is a hazy hodgepodge of almost atonal keyboard noise, restlessly changing tempos and time signatures, and echoing Rickenbacker 12-string guitar jangles. On this album the band have let their influences percolate to the surface for all to witness, but the result is far from derivative. Shouty, sonorous British Mod choruses sit alongside The Pet Shop Boys-style synth refrains; campy, Blur-ish talk-singing is heard on the same tracks as Tom Morello-esque guitar. Whilst each individual song holds together very nicely (despite the fact it should be bursting at the seams with everything Barnes has tried to cram in) the one possible concern is how well the album gels as a whole. Given how mad the entire affair is, it is hard to sense any sort of shape or direction. let’s relate throws us in at the deep end and there is no real rise and fall, no lull to offer some respite. To the uninitiated, listening to the album end-to-end may feel like being trapped in a 90s Berlin acid house rave.
Personally though I think Innocence Reaches is still quite accessible to those with an open mind, despite how niche the band’s sound has become. With their output, talent, and shear moxy, Of Montreal could well have been world-beaters with their own brand of cereal and a headline spot at Reading, but instead they are touring Japan, presumably playing gigs in one of those cat-petting cafés, and have a totally uncompromising sound that is anything and everything but boring.