Borne out of a bad breakup with a girl from Montreal, front man Kevin Barnes' pop-musical career began on a note that recurs throughout his assorted oeuvre -- one that struggles, through fantasy and escape, to cope with loss. Though Of Montreal have often been cited as sounding like the most unabashedly glad band in the world, behind their candy-cane riffs and theatrics, they're also one of the most oddly tragic. Barnes may sound as if he's deliriously happy when singing lines like, "Nothing can save me from the pain of you not loving me," but of course he can't be -- and the fact that he does sound so happy makes his songs even more devastating. But it's that complexity, that layering, that has kept this band so interesting for so long -- ensuring that, while always being bright and whimsical, they've never been too saccharine or cloying.
Of Montreal's debut, Cherry Peel, was released in mid 1997 on Bar/None Records while Barnes was still living in Florida, and was followed that fall by The Bird Who Ate the Rabbit's Flower EP. While losing and gaining various members over the years, moving to Cleveland and Minneapolis, then finally settling in Athens, Georgia, the band somehow managed to release seven records in the next eight years -- including The Bedside Drama: a Petite Tragedy in 1998, The Gay Parade in 1999, the singles retrospective Horse & Elephant Eatery Eatery in 2000, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse in 2001, Aldhils Arboretum in 2002, and, with the arrival of Barnes' wife, Nina, to the band in 2003, Satanic Panic in the Attic in 2004 and The Sunlandic Twins in 2005, two of their most celebrated records.