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MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

  by Mark Rowland

published: 19 / 4 / 2008

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Label: Sony Music
Format: CD


Ambitious and strong debut album from New York-based band MGMT, which, mixing psychedelic rock, folk and electro-pop, which neverthless is eclipsed by their recent hit single success in the charts

MGMT have made considerable waves with their single ‘Time to Pretend’, an incredibly catchy slab of intelligent electro-pop. In that song, the band has managed to appeal to people of varied ages and tastes, a difficult feat in anyone’s book. It also has a so-pretentious-it’s-funny music video, which has probably helped it on its way as well. That single has created a hell of a buzz, so expectations have run high for their debut album, ‘Oracular Spectacular’, with many expecting more songs of the same quality as ‘Time to Pretend’. The album is now out. The verdict ? A slight disappointment. Not that it’s really MGMT’s fault; they have fallen into a trap that has ensnared many bands across the history of pop music – that of the great breakthrough single. If a breakthrough single is too great, it sets the bar too high. There aren’t many bands who can actually survive it. It almost guarantees that the subsequent album will be a disappointment, unless the band is made up of ridiculously talented songwriting geniuses. Unfortunately, MGMT aren’t songwriting geniuses, they are merely good songwriters. ‘Oracular Spectacular’ is a very good debut album. It has its weak moments, but generally, it’s a strong effort, mixing psychedelic rock, folk and electro-pop to create a sound that is not a million miles away from the Flaming Lips, but is different enough to be appealing in its own right. After the initial hit of the aforementioned single, ‘Weekend Wars’ ups the guitars, tipping its hat to ‘Beggars’ era Stones, with a hint of Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure. The prog/psychedelic influence can also be heard on ‘The Youth’, but any of those genres more pretentious aspects are reined in by the band’s obvious love of pop and electronica. Second single ‘Electric Feel’ ups the disco, treading a similar path to Daft Punk (what vaguely electronic act isn’t these days?). It is perhaps the closest the band comes to maintaining the broad appeal of ‘Time to Pretend’, along with ‘Kids’, a stomping electro-indie-pop number. ‘Pieces of What’, the most stripped down track on the album, brings to mind the Stones again, while ‘Of Moons, Birds and Monsters’ is an upbeat guitar number that sounds like a modern update of late 60's and early 70's US rock. It is possible that MGMT could get past the hype and find their true audience. There are people out there expecting an album full of ‘Time to Pretend’s, but if the band had actually delivered that, ‘Oracular Spectacular’ would be incredibly one-dimensional. What they have delivered is ambitious and varied. It’s not perfect and it is fair to say that it isn’t entirely new, but its qualities keep revealing themselves over repeated listens.

Track Listing:-
1 Time to Pretend
2 Weekend Wars
3 The Youth
4 Electric Feel
5 Kids
6 4th Dimensional Transition
7 Pieces Of What
8 Of Moons, Birds & Monsters
9 The Handshake
10 Future Reflections

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Kids (2008)
Latest single from bestselling New York-based duo MGMT, which has a strong 1980's dance sound

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