Of Montreal are not a novelty act. They are musical visionaries. With "The Gay Parade", they have crafted what is easily one of the best "concept" albums since Jethro Tull's "A Passion Play". It's just a mark of how times have changed to realize that 30 years ago, "Passion Play" was a #1 record and "The Gay Parade" will probably only be heard by a few thousand people. Frustratiing, huh?
Anyway, be glad that you are one of the few that cares enough to discover this record. Is it odd? you bet. Quirky, weird, psychedelic. Probably. Cute? No. That does it a disservice. It is a brillinatly conceived song-cycle of character sketches. The characters are, of course, an eccentric lot. A guy obsessed with a certain mean boxer, a widower with his "dogs for friends" awaiting death, a French firemen pining for heroism, an ecstatic dude waxing poetic about mowing the lawn while his wife knits. While the vocals approach giddy and cartoonish, the songs themselves can range for hilarious to rather disturbing--- often with one turn-of-phrase. There is indeed a intangible saddness looming over this private world, despite the Crayola surroundings.
The sound of the record is fascinating. The best thing about bands like Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, etc. is that they know exactly the sonic landscape they wish to create and accomplish it with minimalist recording technology. The result is a sonic juggernaut of an album that sounds at once high-concept and low-fidelity... hiss, tape saturation, drops-outs--- all part of the sound. And it's damn near brilliant. Horns, tape manipulations, choirs of mice, saws, kazoos, plastic guitars--- many of the instruments barely in tune.
To my ear, it sounds like a benediction.
At the end of the record Kevin Barnes advises his listeners that they now know the way into the world of "The Gay Parade" and can return any time they like.... Can't I just set up camp and *stay*, Kev?