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Of Montreal and Mahjongg, with Apollo Sunshine

Saturday, March 19, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.

Led by Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal has proved to be one of the standard-bearers of the underground psychedelic-pop scene, even almost ten years after its inception in Athens, Georgia. While it may seem a crime to label a band like Of Montreal as "pop," in a way, they represent all that pop music should have become. Which is, namely, a celebration of art over style, a living link to the psychedelic pop of the late '60s, with its strong sense of melody and tradition of blissful exploration. Sadly, stuff like this is hard to find today on mass-market radio stations, and it's even harder to peg down stylistically -- though you can safely say that it is usually centered on melody and swimming in trippy arrangements. While Of Montreal's ability to weave in and out of different styles and moods can sometimes be a bit much to take in, often it's best to just let go and accept that confusion can be bliss.

To wit: Club crowds are more than willing to accept avant-garde experimentation, as long as it comes equipped with chant-along choruses and wicked dance beats. Mahjongg, a self-consciously kooky collective whose members hail from Chicago and Columbia, Missouri, enjoys obtuse wordplay, overlapping vocals and inscrutable song structures, but it also breaks barriers through the sheer sonic force of its seismic rhythms. The groove-driven group draws comparisons to Talking Heads, not only because it's a white coed band that incorporates Afro-pop elements without embarrassing itself, but also because of its punk-damaged funk chops. Saturday's show, studded with songs from the upcoming release Raydoncong, should generate more booty-shaking action than any gig in town, combined with so much compositional complexity that listeners should receive course credit in music theory as they march out the door at the end of the evening.

 
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