Music Reviews


Oracular Spectacular


Okay, I need to get this out of the way as quickly as possible before MGMT gets totally fucking ubiquitous and I start reflexively recoiling. Suck-cess ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, you’re at the whims of an uncaring market and it’s just too gross. Boy-in-a-bubblesville. But I like MGMT – every interview I see, they seem to be charming and spacey and genuinely wide-eyed and ecstatic about the endless possibilities of sound and the joys and communications and connections in performing said sound, and that’s what it’s all about, right? It’s just, it’s the Converse ads, I just saw them today, sorry. I know everyone’s gotta eat and it’s all crumbling down around our ears and all, but fuck…. the Bill Hicks riff about Jay Leno and Doritos is just such a seductive dictum.

But do you know what’s equally, if not more, seductive? The cotton-candy sunburst diamonds that are scattered throughout Oracular Spectacular. Irresistible stuff, man. Even the coldest of hearts can’t help falling for pop this bighearted and happily freaked-out and individualized. This is the stuff of teenage dreams – a potent, hypodermic adrenaline shot, a hybridization of Marc Bolan’s T Rex, Syd Barrett and Depeche Mode. MGMT are pop chemists of the highest order, or shit, maybe as the corkscrew hair, nervous giggles and gaudy robes suggest, they just accidentally stumbled onto an alchemickal soundz formula, a philosopher’s stone hidden securely within a vintage synthesizer. Can you tell that I’ve fallen harder for Oracular Spectacular than I should have? Never trust pop this catchy! But god, if anyone can keep the connections personal and intimate, even on enordome stages and festival fields throughout the world, maybe it’s MGMT. In their lyrics, they certainly do make a VERY convincing case for freak power, psychedelic headtrips, new societies, and ways of living and casting off the banal shackles of the workaday world. (They’re young and hopeful, let’em work it out.)

MGMT have Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev man Dave Fridmann in the producer’s chair (already a good omen), and the songs! Damn them, the songs. “Time To Pretend” starts things out on an epic note, to the point where you’re almost like, “Shit, why didn’t they put this song at the end, the rest of the album’s gonna be a snoozer, maybe there’s a hidden remix.” Nope, don’t worry – like a more stoned-out and hopeful Flaming Lips, soaring synths and honey-sweet vocal harmonies make like a cybernetic summer of love, singsong verses coalescing into a megahuge chorus that begs to be belted from within the confines of showers and cars for years to come. “Electric Feel” is a fabulously catchy turn at loverman-style disco-junk goodness – chunky bass licks meld with smooth and silky Prince falsettos, syncopated drums, clunky Billy Ocean synths and a chorus that actually includes the words “Ooooh girl” without the slightest hint of pastiche or the demon irony. I think this sort of naive love or music and dancing and experimentation – disco sounds cool, let’s try that – might be one of the things I love best about them.

“Pieces of What” sounds like an outtake from the end of Hedwig and the Angry Inch; a plaintive accoustive lament, but delivered in a snotty Jaggeresque drawl. The sparse earnestness stands out from the rest of the album, while still nattily rough and tumble. “4th Dimensional Transition” skitters and dashes about wildly like Eno’s “St Elmo’s Fire” (whose Another Green World has to be another consistent influence on this album) with sped-up electronic clatter, grand synth washes and voices that change and shift and harmonize together so weird but sugary sweet, and then these Beatles-esque sweeps of orchestral grandness just radiating in the background. I can’t help but wonder how pop this earnest and glitter-eyed will flourish in such a transient, out-with-the-new-in-with-the-newer environment. Will they even get to their Berlin Trilogy?

Take the money and run, boys. Or no, wait, don’t! Stick around.


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