Outraged posters at IndieHQ.com called upon Of Montreal's label, Polyvinyl, to issue a cease-and-desist order to quell this "blatant rip-off." However, the band was well aware of the appropriation. "We thought it would be totally amusing to hear their take on one of our songs," singer Kevin Barnes told the Web zine Stereogum.com. Following the five stages of grief in linear fashion, fans progressed from denial to anger. "Having a restaurant actually change the words to your song to sell overpriced foodstuffs is totally selling out," a Stereogum reader ranted.
The reimagined "Wraith" presents a unique case. Usually, an unfamiliar yet engaging song used as an advertisement backdrop prompts Web searches, with intrigued listeners using lyrics as their criteria. This process introduced viewers to Grandaddy, Goldfrapp and countless other underground artists whose elegiac tunes lent classy ambience to car and computer commercials.
The "Wraith" ad won't spark curiosity in the uninitiated, though, because it appears to be a proprietary jingle.
To wit: On the album version, Barnes sings, Let's pretend we don't exist/Let's pretend we're in Antarctica. Outback's anonymous singer offers this invitation: Let's go Outback tonight/Life will still be there tomorrow. (Let's pretend we're in Australia would have been a more obvious fix, but Outback's advertising execs harbor greater ambition.) Blatant plug aside, this creative phrasing, which suggests that eating at Outback is an experience that transcends life itself, preserves the surreal, escapist mood of the original.
Initially, this seems like a lose-lose proposition: Of Montreal lures scant new listeners while alienating a vocal segment of its existing fanbase. But the band presumably received compensation for its melody, and perhaps that income will allow Barnes to bring a few more musicians on the road (he handles most instrumental duties on record) or pay for studio enhancements that will expand his sonic scope.
And if a few hardened purists can't forgive his corporate dalliance, well, life will still be there tomorrow.