Oracular Spectacular, by MGMT
Suggested by Alfie Bennett
Bands like MGMT make me feel old.
It’s not their music, which is pleasant and nuanced and refreshing. It’s not their age, as the two mainstays are children of the early Eighties, and while that’s a good decade younger than me it’s in the same rough wheelhouse. It’s not even their hipster name “MGMT”, which is a contraction of their original and unknowingly plagiarised “The Management” moniker.
No, they make me feel old because of their chronology.
MGMT were formed in 2002. To me, anything formed post 2000 sits in my head as “new”. I mean, they’re patently not new; MGMT have an eighteen-year history, for Methuselah’s sake. Even so, they are, at least to my mind, proponents of the New Sound that all the kids love. So when I see that they’ve achieved so much in what I imagine to be a relatively short period of time (four studio albums, EPs, compilations, multiple singles), I can feel my aching bones creak. What have I been doing in the eighteen years since 2002? Playing cards, watching TV, eating bacon. Why didn’t I concentrate on my pop career instead?
So, as proponents of this mythical fresh New Sound that all the kids love, do MGMT have an ageless appeal, or do they court young minds by singing songs about, I dunno, Among Us and dank memes?
The opening track on Oracular Spectacular is the excellent Time to Pretend, a breezy and breathy pop number replete with wonderful electronica and a selection of bizarre sound effects. The voals are downplayed in the mix, appearing as a guest addition to the action, but this serves to heighten the quirky chic that’s the band’s hipster trademark. It’s a highlight that soon becomes the blueprint from which ach track is built.
Through ten eclectic tracks, the band serve up some fine psychedelic pop rock with fantasy electronic elements. Weekend Wars covers childish fighting in the playground, 4th Dimensional Transition brings us cacophonous tribal drumming, Electric Feel turns up the cringe dial with some decidedly groovy throwback electro-funk. It’s an ambitious, far reaching record, unafraid of experimentation, and it almost always finds its mark.
My standout track is the band’s strongest single to date, the direct and danceable Kids. There’s an argument that this is the most straightforward track on the album, but personally I like how it builds and I adore the thumping Eighties-style synth bass. Random fact: this song’s unauthorised misuse was the subject of an out0of0court settlement in MGMT’s favour against Nicholas Sarkozy, the President of France.
I was pleasantly surprised by Oracular Spectacular. It’s a worthy 7/10 recording, and hopefully a gateway release to further fun and frolics from the band. It might not be as new or exciting as my brain-pan leads me to believe, but an embrace of music from this century is at least a step in the right direction.