MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

If MGMT, pronounced “management,” were to produce a public service announcement, it would most likely be to inform you that you should not label them. They are not an “indie” band. Hell, they don’t even like indie bands. Nor are they to be called members of the genres “synth” or “electric-pop.” Furthermore, they do not belong to any “scene.” Honestly, the best way that I can find to to describe MGMT is as the music equivalent of Andy Kaufman. For example, the futuristic pop-rock band’s Andrew Vanwyngarden has been quoted as saying about previous tours, “We were trying to be obnoxious and somehow people got into it. Some songs we wrote just because we wanted to learn how to be really bad within a certain genre and then people started liking the song because they liked the genre. It was an accident that people started liking us.”

The thing is, Andy Kaufman was nothing short of a genius. And honestly I can’t help but lean that way with this band, also. Not bad for a band who didn’t mean to be.

Let’s go back a few years to 2002 and two college students swapping their favorite CDs the way kids trade baseball cards. To Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, both students of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, music was simply something they had an interest in. “We weren’t trying to start a band,” Ben remembers. “We were just hanging out, showing each other music that we liked.” After finding that they shared a lot of the same compassions for different aspects in music, they began experimenting with electronic music, never realizing that they were pushing the limits of the structures of conventional songwriting.

Eventually Ben and Andrew began staging these experiments in the form of performance art. They took “these obnoxious, noisy live electronic show — we never planned on having a recorded project — where we would write these weird techno loops and arrangements that we could play live. Most of it was running live off the computer and we had a turn table plugged into some guitar pedals, a radio, and a tape player. It was all electronically generated at that point. We would write a new song for each show and our shows would be fifteen minutes.”

An indie label called Cantora Records, formed by a group of NYU students, soon took notice of these performances, and offered to record and release a project that would become Time to Pretend, a critically-acclaimed six song EP, that is still available on iTunes.

As for present day, Time to Pretend‘s follow-up Oracular Spectacular, is an epic unto itself. It opens very efficiently with a piece that might just turn out to be the catchiest song I have ever heard in my life; “Time to Pretend.” Featured originally on their Cantora Records EP, MGMT carried the song over to Oracular Spectacular to serve as the album’s first single. A very bright choice I must say, as this song remains stuck in my head for days at a time. With the feel of The Flaming Lips if they had decided to be an 80’s new wave band, and lyrics that somehow balance both intelligence and sarcastic tongue-in-cheek jabs at the satires of life, I can’t see many singles being better this year.

But this album is so much more than a one-hit wonder piece. Summoning the likes of Blonde Redhead, Prince, Ratatat, Captain Beefheart and Hall and Oates, there is something in this track listing for everyone. It’s just rock enough for the indie kids, and dance enough for the rave kids. It’s honest enough for the Bright Eyes fans and progressive enough for the math rock kids. Everyone goes home happy, pleased by a band who really didn’t care of anyone was listening in the first place.

And that to me, explains it all.

Look for MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular to be in stores on January 29th. It will be released on Columbia Records.

MGMT myspace
Columbia Records website

Quotes and other information come from press pack given to PopWreck(oning) via Columbia Records.


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