Review ·

In the arts, youth and accidental excellence go hand in hand. There's something liberating about not knowing the rules of the game, and that, coupled with the hubris of young adulthood, often results in premature works of brilliance. That's probably why buzz bands are thriving these days but sustained artistic growth remains elusive for most of them.

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The debut album from MGMT -- a pair of hotshot twentysomethings based in Brooklyn -- sounds like a college-dorm experiment gone horribly right. So many other electro-pop duos have tried mixing such volatile elements as glam rock, disco, and new wave, and they've failed miserably. Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, however, succeed because they treat this record as if it's their only shot at glory. Opener "Time to Pretend" is both an overblown manifesto and living will wrapped up in one tidy package.

 

"This our decision, to live fast and die young/ We've got the vision, now let's have some fun," sings the duo in ghostly harmony, the vocals encased in a mist of reverb and squiggly keyboards.

 

It would be an empty declaration if the rest of Oracular Spectacular didn't deliver. But then "Weekend Wars" lumbers in, upping the sonic spectacle even further. The track nimbly maneuvers from a straight-ahead acoustic number to a decadent wall-of-sound finale without missing a beat. Although its lyrics read like a series of impressionistic splotches on an open canvas, "Wars" makes a clear stylistic statement: MGMT does indeed have a compelling vision to express.

 

Impressively, this pair manages to avoid the derivative influence-worship that bogs down most debut albums. Even "Electric Feel," an obvious pastiche of decade-old Beckisms, somehow redeems itself as a goofy, falsetto-driven slice of white funk. "Kids," meanwhile, heavily relies on the same synth line that has dominated discotheques for years. But the song's catchy refrain and post-collegiate nostalgia infuse it with MGMT's particular character.

 

With its big knockout blows already delivered, the duo takes the second half of the album to tinker with the template. On numbers like "4th Dimensional Transitional" and "Of Moons, Birds & Monsters," we get the sense that MGMT is stretching its wings a bit, attempting to see what sounds it can get away with. Then it's on to a solid one-two punch to close the record: the space-folk stylings of "The Handshake" followed by the final charge of "Future Reflections."

 

One of the more notable elements of Oracular Spectacular is its preoccupation with youth, both lost and found. Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser stand at that awkward phase of life where there's both lost innocence to mourn and a vibrant future to anticipate. (They're also about my age, which might make this album more relevant to me than it would to older ears.) But regardless, it's a confident debut, one that features two young musicians reveling in their abilities and perhaps discovering ones they didn't know they had.

 

***

Band: http://www.myspace.com/mgmt

Label: http://www.columbiarecords.com/

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It's cool to see someone else "get" this album. Its ambition, audacity, naivete, originality, and, yep, joyfulness make it one of the best debuts I've ever heard from a young band... beautiful stuff.

And nice writing too, by the way. Must be a Mizzou grad.

winosaurus

i finally found out this is what we were listening to @ prefix offices =) this album is great!

/site_media/uploads/images/users/pill/mm_broccolijpg.JPG pill

i love this album, i love these guys, fun times

awesome

prefix offices??? I hope some day this will be considered as great as any 60's or 70's band!

merry christmas and happy new year for you all!

sp

Hey, prefix. thanks for the review; thoughtful and measured praise - I like.
But I feel I must respond. Here's the thing : I'm old. Like, 39, old. And female. And in a sensible job. But to me, MGMT is the sweet sound of music channelling down the ages through these boys' youth, beauty and god-given talent, as is all right and proper in the world of rocknroll and savage inspiration. I haven't been taken by a tune for years the way 'Time to Pretend' gripped me last Saturday (5 days ago? - it seems like a lifetime now...) and I haven't wanted to listen to any other music since.
Because I'm 39 and sensible I hadn't heard of them til now, so ok I'm a year behind... But there ain't nuffink says MGMT doesn't speak to 'older ears', baby. In fact this music encapsulates so much music that I love that it is a joy to hear it packaged with such humour, grace, sexual power and all-out charm. Love and peace out to all this yuletide xxx

Blinder

I never heard of this band, but I saw the album in my local record store late December 07 and was intrigued by the cover art. When I arrived home, I immediately went to youtube and listened to some of the songs. They sounded good, but it's hard to get a feel for an entire album just by listening to one song "time to pretend". So I went ahead and bought the album.

I gave it a once-through. Then a second-through. Then a third-through... I've been listening to this album for about 5 days in a row now and it just gets better every time. The editorial reviewer complained about the variety on the album, but I believe that's one of the strengths. There's definitely something for everyone in this album.

I listen to a lot of indie-rock and this is definitely one of the top albums that has come out in the last few years. I rank it up there with Boxer by The National, Neon Bible by the Arcade Fire, and 23 by Blonde Redhead to name a few. Suffice it to say that this album is definitely in good company.

Now I know this album was released on Columbia, which means it's not necessarily "Indie"... But it was definitely crafted with the indie crowd in mind. It succeeds on many levels and it does so with flying colors.

Luke Indie Rock

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