From the opening synth handclaps and dual lead guitar harmonies of "Disconnect the Dots," the first song on Satanic Panic in the Attic, you know you are in for a different Of Montreal. Working on his own, save for a few helping hands on occasional strings and vocals, Kevin Barnes has crafted Of Montreal's most focused and powerful sounding record yet. Fans of the bursting-to-the-seams arrangements of the past may feel a bit let down by the stripped-down sound at first, but once you get past that feeling, the beautiful melodies and thrilling, immediate sound of the record are sure to reel you in. Besides, it isn't like this is a Matchbox Twenty record. Barnes is still as surreal lyrically and musically inventive as ever. Instead of treading closely to the conventions of the Elephant 6 chamber psych sound, Barnes expands his musical reach quite impressively to encompass disco-funk ("My British Tour Diary," which comes replete with drum breaks and cowbell; the lovely "Spike the Senses"), hard rock (the driving "How Lester Lost His Wife"), Beachwood Sparks-style cosmic country ("Erroneous Escape Into Erik Eckles"), power pop of the East Coast dB's variety (the gushing and surprisingly personal love song "Your Magic Is Working"), well-done Beach Boys homage ("Climb the Ladder"), and acoustic balladry (the wonderful "City Bird," which has one of the band's sweetest melodies and strips the sound all the way down to acoustic guitar and multitracked vocal harmonies). The last song on the record ("Vegan in Furs") even manages a breathtaking fusion of Afro-pop, disco, and freakbeat. The tougher sound and punchier arrangements also help keep the more whimsical lyrical flights from crashing (see the necrophiliac anthem "Chrissy Kiss the Corpse" or the goofy "My British Tour Diary"). Where the sticky sweetness of the band may have been a touch cloying once, now the sugar smacks you right in the head like pop music at its best does. Satanic Panic in the Attic is probably the first Of Montreal record that doesn't sound like you need a special decoder ring to figure out what is going on, the first record that you can imagine people outside of the Elephant 6 web ring buying and actually listening to with pleasure. To be able to create a record as open-hearted and musically direct and great as this without sacrificing much of the inspiration and sound that first made the band worth hearing is quite a feat.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra