Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman. Why did Kevin Barnes name every song on "The Early Four Track Recordings" after Dustin Hoffman? Be that as it may, this collection of Of Montreal's early work seems a bit cobbled together and dusty, but the band's charm shines through in some of the songs.
As I said before, each song is named after Dustin Hoffman supposedly doing something, usually connected with bathing. (The weirdest title is "Dustin Hoffman's Wife Makes A Sarcastic Remark, Cuts The Head Off A Duck, Places It Where The Tub Was And Begins To Growl").
What follows is mostly a collection of guitar pop and ballads, with piano and some muffled percussion in the background -- there's a country flavor to "Dustin Hoffman Quits Bathroom And Climbs A Tree," and an experimental flavor to "Dustin Hoffman's Wife Makes...", where a kazoo plays half the song to a carnival tune.
The title "Early Four Track Recordings" seems almost like an apology for the lesser quality of these songs. They were recorded before Of Montreal became the semi-big indie band that they are today, and it shows. The quality of the tape-to-CD transfer isn't that great, for one thing -- "Dustin Hoffman Feigns Ignorance Of Missing Bathtub" sounds like Barnes is singing with his head inside a bag.
For another, this CD simply doesn't have a great deal of the whimsical joy and sorrow that their later songs have. That isn't surprising, since the band was still getting its footing. But in some songs you can hear bells, kazoos, and a carnival tune that sounds like a circus gone amuck. In songs like this, Kevin Barnes' poppy madness is in full swing.
Beneath the slightly fuzzy sound is some really solid instrumentation, pairing two of Barnes' favorite instruments -- guitar and piano -- together, although don't expect too many experimental flourishes. All the strangeness can be found in the songwriting. "Let's make a pact/allow me to dream," he says, sounding sincere.
A rough and raw collection of ultra-early work, Of Montreal's "Early Four Track Recordings" is a very flawed but also enjoyable little collection. Worth checking out, if you're a fan.