Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MGMT: Saline IV Not Included

As many of you know, Bonnaroo wrapped up on Sunday, and while The Musically Inclined didn't get its butt over to Manchester, TN for four shower-less days of non-stop music, the internet made it pretty easy to stay in the loop while avoiding a veritable smorgasbord of infections and hippie sweat. Early on in the coverage, Rolling Stone posted a couple videos featuring a Brooklyn duo by the name of MGMT. By now MGMT has played Letterman, made it onto a few "artists to watch lists," and of course debuted their first full-length release, Oracular Spectacular. In other words, they've been anointed.

After watching said video, I started investigating. The duo humbly proclaims on their web site that they are "celebrating the grand re-opening of the third eye the world with Oracular Spectacular, [their] much-anticipated first full-length album, an enigmatic and prophetic collection of hallucinatory sounds and hook-riddled pop tones for the new millennium," all this amid a cheeseburger-tiled background. I hate to break it to these kids, but synth was not exactly the baby of recreational drug use. In any case Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser are diehard about their psychedelic pop/rock. If the web site isn't maddening enough with the strange squares that follow your mouse around and its visual assault on your eyes, check out their music videos.

The video for "Electric Feel" is some kind of forest commune/ Lord of the Flies on acid, featuring a Chuck E. Cheese-esque band of animatronic woodland creatures. At one point the merry clan of stoners pulls the moon out of the sky and Vanwyngarden cuts it open to allow this sparkly, color-changing nail polish type goo to spill out. The scene is vaguely reminiscent of that scene for Un Chien Andalou (you know what I'm talking about. Ick.) It's trippyness is only surpassed by the video for "TIme to Pretend" which is an absolute hallucinogenic mess, including the giant cat that runs across the screen with Vanwyngarden on its back.

As far as the music itself, the vocals are nothing to write home about, they feel stretched and whiny at times though on a few songs it sounds as if they're channeling a little Mick Jagger. MGMT admits that in college they used more experimental sounds, like turntables hooked up to pedals, etc. but on this album stuck mainly to keyboard, drums, electric guitar, bass, and synth so they could replicate the sound on stage. "Electric Feel" is probably their best. It captures that 60's retro vibe well and has a shuffling, pulsing beat accented at times with clear, flute-like synth. It's not at all bad. In fact it's getting to be addictive, for lack of a better word. "Time to Pretend" comes off as a cross between a lament and proclamation of their chosen path in life. " Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do? Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?" Unfortunately the rest of the songs on their Myspace didn't quite measure up, but perhaps upon further inspection my idea might change.

I'm curious to see where MGMT winds up. Drug use has long been intertwined with popular music, producing mixed but typically determinate results. They've got a set mission and a clear penchant for whimsy as well as a desire to tap into that late 60s counterculture of "openmindedness" and life without mental limits. The unfortunate side of things is one they allude to in "Time to Pretend" when they say "this is our decision, to live fast and die young." Back in the day, the expiration age seemed to be around 27 for far too many folks.

In the meantime, MGMT is worth checking out...just maybe not if you're epileptic.

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