Album Reviews

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

(Columbia) UK release date: 10 March 2008

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular The splendidly named Brooklyn duo of Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, aka MGMT, did not initially intend for their music to be part of a recorded concern. They used to do 15-minute shows, for which they would write a new song each time, and these would take the form of live electronic performance, with loops and arrangements manipulated on stage.

That approach rubs off on the songs that make up Oracular Spectacular, though clearly they’ve honed their technique and added just a touch of production gloss to finish. Otherwise the results are spontaneous, imaginative and, above all, hugely enjoyable.

Time To Pretend might smack briefly of one-hit wonder potential, but it’s in no way indicative of what lies ahead on the album. It’s a hugely affirmative opener, initially coming across as a glorification of rock star excess but turning out to be the complete antithesis of tracks such as Nickelback‘s horrifying Rock Star. Here actions have consequences and lead ultimately to unhappiness, though the starry-eyed riff remains.

Sensibly the duo resist the temptation to employ similar tactics elsewhere, and only Kids toys with a synthesizer motif powering the whole song. Instead they explore a dazzling array of styles and colourful textures, well represented by the bright squares of colour that appear when you log onto their website.

While most of their songs are characterised by busy electronics and reverberant vocals, no two sound the same. Electric Feel struts around confidently like a peacock, shaking its tail feathers. The weird and wondrous storytelling of Handshake recalls 1970s progressive rock in its fantasy world.

Then there’s the clever word painting of Youth, where as “the youth are starting to change” becomes a chanted mantra, the harmonies go off in all sorts of directions, as if searching for an elusive musical meaning. Singing as one, the duo make many memorable lyrical vignettes and melodies to latch on to. Occasionally they have the glam camp of the Scissor Sisters; other times the enjoyably madcap approach of The Flaming Lips.

But, as Kids puts it, “Enjoy yourself, take only what you need from it”. This soundbite sums up the album – hugely enjoyable and wonderfully disposable pop for the listener, who will turn round and return for more, no question. An auspicious debut.

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More on MGMT
MGMT – Loss Of Life
MGMT @ Somerset House, London
MGMT – Little Dark Age
MGMT @ Forum, London