Along with Vampire Weekend MGMT have been garnering plenty of praise and column inches for their debut album Oracular Spectacular. The music press seems to have it all sewn up at the moment, we're told at the beginning of the year which bands are going to be big and we dutifully go out and buy the albums and hey presto they're big (until the second album comes along usually) so do MGMT measure up?
Well the album gets off to a thumping start. Time to Pretend with its heavy synths and drums makes their intentions clear: to live fast and die young, 'Let's make some music/Make some money/Get some models for wives'. It's not just hedonistic excess though. The Youth is a call to arms filled with optimism about change which brings in strings to its arm waving chorus. As a Prince fan I was very pleased to hear his influence all over the funky Electric Feel.
The rest of the album is soaked in 1970's influences like Bowie, The Rolling Stones, prog rock and lots of others that I'm far too young to name accurately so your enjoyment of this album may depend on how much you liked them the first time around. Produced by Mercury Rev's Dave Fridmann it has a wide soundscape filled with warmth and depth. But most importantly it is filled with invention, humour and the vigour of youth ( having seem them on telly the other day they look about 15 years old, god I'm getting old).
MGMT mix of psychedelia, electronica and playful indie pop shouldn't be a mainstream hit. But something about it just works. It is an highly ambitious album, experimental and highly intelligent. Mixing styles of Secret Machines, Goldrush, The Flaming Lips, Sparks with the psychedelia of Pink Floyd and 13th Floor Elevators should give you enough influences to get a taste of this album.
Starting with the rousing "Time To Pretend" the album begins on a high. The opener was released on a previous, same titled EP, and is one of the more accessible tracks on the album. I like the fact it is a challenge, forcing the listener to push through their normal limits and open up to a new sounds and styles. "Weekend Wars" morphs two or three times in the single track, becoming a Bowie soundtrack half way through before breaking into a catchy chorus before it fades away again. "The Youth" is a slower complex layered example and shows their softer chilled underbelly.
"Electric Feel" and "Kids" are my standout tracks in a very heavily stacked top end of the album. Both commercial successes, both highly catchy indie pop records that are highlights of the music this year.
What I love most about it apart from the fusion of styles and the complex set of influences which are credited with such aplomb, is the uncertainty of where it going to take you next. So unpredictable and magical that it truly deserves it's accolades it has received this year.
A prime example of this is the almost tribal "4th Dimensional Transition" with its jungle drums and synth sounds followed by the acoustically led "Pieces Of What" that sounds like Mick Jagger attempting to cry his heart out. Beautiful sounds arranged and mixed with cracking lyrics - on an almost magical level the album finishes as it begins, on a high.
*** Like: Secret Machines, Goldrush, The Flaming Lips, Sparks with the psychedelia of Pink Floyd and 13th Floor Elevators ***
Putting a label on the debut album by MGMT is a toughie. They're sort of a synth-psychedelic-space-indie-noisepop band.
And they break an awful lot of rules in their debut album "Oracular Spectacular," a vibrant, colorful little album that sounds like a cascade of summer flowers. They have a few wrinkles yet to iron out, but their music has a unique and striking sound, and they obviously know how to craft solid pop music with a foot-tapping beat, and a slightly eerie sound.
It opens with squeaks, bubbling noises, and finally with a slow-building electric riff smothered in twisted synth. "I'm feelin' rough, I'm feelin' raw, I'm in the prime of my life/Let's make some music make some money find some models for wives... This is our decision to live fast and die young/We've got the vision, now let's have some fun..." the soft layered vocals intone.
Well, at least there's no pretense about plans for the future, even if it means "I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home," and ends up with divorce, more models, and "We'll choke on our vomit and that will be the end/We were fated to pretend."
They slow down a little with the guitar-led, sparkling pop of "Weekend Wars," and the shimmering psychedelic echoes of the languid "The Youth" ("We could flood the streets/with love or light or heat/whatever!"). But then they happily speed back up again -- beat-heavy funky tunes, undulating playful synthpop, and rapid-pattering electronic psychedelica. Styles are jumbled seamlessly.
As the album's end approaches, the songs get even more complex, as if the band is learning the ropes as they go along. We have an acoustic-led ballad, a sly rippling pop melody, and a dancy, intimate-sounding finale -- not to mention the utterly sublime "Of Moons, Birds & Monsters," a deliriously beautiful psychpop melody strung with colourful synth, spacey sound effects, and guitars that chime like church bells.
"Oracular Spectacular" is the sound of a magnificently talented band that is still getting its bearings, and exploring the blended sound they've created. Most of the songs on this album are of good quality but not brilliant -- and then MGMT suddenly bursts forth in full-blown musical splendor, with some truly larger-than-life pop rippling with exquisite instrumentation.
Much of that instrumentation comes from the subtle percussion, and a series of guitars that can drive the melody forwards like a speeding car, then can suddenly turn into a mass of psychedelic blurs, murmurs and chimes. You can hear some handclaps and what sounds like kettle drums buried in there as well, plus the occasional bashed cymbals.
But the synth is nothing short of gorgeous, and it permeates every song in the album. Sometimes it's a chirp, tweak, squeak or electronic chime on the edges, but sometimes it's a sweep of truly exquisite shimmering sound. "The Handshake" sounds like it was recorded underwater at times.
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden's soft voices are layered through most of the album, although occasionally one of them sings solo. It adds an otherworldly sound as their vibrant lyrics explore youthful revels, rock'n'roll, otherworldly transformations ("My liquid silver arms extended/These waves aren't far apart... I am fire, where's my form?") and who knows what else ("Why'd you cut holes in the face of the moon base?/Don't you know about the temperature change/In the cold black shadow?").
"Oracular Spectacular" lives up to its name -- outstanding music that only promises to become better, shimmering with colorful pop and boundless imagination.
Only a quick review this one having only listened to this album 3 or 4 times. It's a rewarding listen and some of the tunes i just cant get out of my head.Track one has this insistent 'Erasure-ish' keyboard riff which nags until it becomes lodged firmly in the brain (if ya have one..he he!!),witty lyrics and some corking tunes follow,accomapnied by THE most fabulous production techniques courtesy of the brilliant David Fridmann of Flaming Lips,Mercury Revs latter albums fame (and he deserves the mention everytime). A very accomplished album all in all.Well worth investigation if you admire the aforementioned artists and Of Montreal. Play loud and ENJOY!!
I'm actually surprised by the 2 bad reviews this album has received because I've listened to the 'Time To Pretend' ep and Oracular Spectacular and have fallen in love with both. I originally avoided listening to MGMT because I believed they were most probably undeservingly over-hyped and a bit 'cooler-than-thou' for my liking. However, I'm sorry I procrastinated because now I literally can't get enough of their beautiful, psychedelic, Bowie-esque, electric gorgeousness. Oracular Spectacular is one of the best albums I've heard in ages and I'd urge anyone to give it a try.