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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular" 87%

The duo that comprise the origins of MGMT (formerly The Management and now a trio), are Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. The pair met while undergraduates at Wesleyan University and have since relocated to Brooklyn, signed to Columbia Records, and now find themselves opening for electro-glam gods Of Montreal. The future is bright for sure, but these guys seem almost afraid of it, haunted by the yellow-tinged innocent days of the past.

With its knees deep in experimentation, MGMT’s full-length debut “Oracular Spectacular” is, ironically, a hook-heavy and beautifully precise psychedelic-pop album that stands out as one of the best of the year. Produced by Dave Fridmann, the man responsible for the otherworldly, expansive production on records by The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, the album is both an uplifting and nostalgic disc about a generation at odds with the blistering pace of the world and the widespread uncertainty of the future.

‘Time to Pretend’, the album’s opening track, is an instantly catchy anthem about rock ‘n’ roll dreams of excess and hedonism as a means to avoid the mundane everyman life. Just when you think to dismiss the song as pretentious with its ruminations of moving to Paris, marrying models and doing heroin, the concept is suddenly juxtaposed by grainy images of an innocent youth and the song, in turn, becomes more about how to rise above the harmful entrapments of, well, the glamorous life.

On ‘The Youth’, the vocal begins with “This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together, we could flood the streets with love, with light, with heat, whatever”. MGMT are inspired by fragments of a time that precede their young existence, a fascination that is apparent on virtually every track on the album. The inevitable extraction of ‘youth’ seems almost an obsession. “The youth is starting to change, our youth is starting to change…are you together, together, together…?” The complications of becoming an adult and the fears associated with such are a running theme here, superbly elevating the album to great heights. And while this may not seem like the most complex idea for a ‘concept album’, these guys sell it well, utilizing honest lyrics and a vast number of sonic influences ranging from electro-new wave (‘Kids’) and falsetto-laden disco funk (‘Electric Feet’) to 70’s progressive rock (4th Dimensional Transitional’ and ‘The Handshake’).

Again the past is pondered and deconstructed on ‘Pieces of What’, easily the heart of the album and the closest thing here to a ballad. Clocking in at well under three minutes and perfectly placed on the second half of the disc, the track conjures an aching nostalgia… “Buried by all of the pieces falling from the sky…but pieces of what? Pieces of what we used to call home”.

The final track ‘Future Reflections’ vibrantly flashes forward to a distant, fantastical time – an uplifting dream of a more existential and better time to come. Images of primitive Greek islands, streets missing buildings and the overall feeling of spirits leaving serve as a metaphor for overcoming fear in general. “As long as you feel it, I’m a believer, my heart is faster”.

Ultimately, it seems that MGMT are not unlike the rebel kids of the sixties. At once eager to confront the issues of now, while somehow remaining optimistic, longing for that golden time of peace somewhere down the line. The final lyric sums things up nicely…“To be alone, sitting in the sunlight…we’re not alone…”

-Originally published on

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