If all ten tracks of MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular were laid out on canvas and exhibited in a gallery, I imagine the scene would be akin to something from Andy Warhol’s factory, minus the mass production - a colourful array of sounds that threaten hidden meaning but are mostly just different and fun to listen to. The Brooklyn based duo have mastered pop-art for the ears with their experimental debut album, the title of which emerged from entering ‘mystic bullshit’ into a Google search engine.
Bowie influences are evident, as is Dave Fridman’s hands-on approach as the record’s producer. And from start to finish it is easy to visualise these two hippy Ray-Ban donning art students, who in the early days were self-admittedly ‘trying to be obnoxious’, playing with a broad range of musical genres as if they are dabbling with an unlikely combination of charcoal and paint. The result is an unconventional cocktail of electro-glam and country, a spine of traditional rock instruments such as electric guitar, keyboards and drums that have been enhanced with Amazonian jungle flavour.
The radio-friendly ‘Time to Pretend’ is a satire on the music industry’s cliché of living fast and dying young, kicking the album off with a memorable tune nostalgic of the 60s. ‘Kids’ is another psychedelic anthem that you won’t be able to stop yourself from humming along to, but before you start thinking that Oracular Spectacular is just about the booming dance inspired melodies, songs like ‘Electric Feel’, a smooth funky number and one of the album’s best, and the hallucinatory ‘The Handshake’ with its blend of mellow guitar strums and workman whistles, are reminders of the unpredictable nature of the record. It is almost as if such aural pleasures are derived by happy accident- two art students joking around and splashing paint on a wall, only to find that they have created something worthwhile.
A masterpiece it may not be, but Oracular Spectacular is a respectable offering as a debut from a band that may as well have started off by banging plates together. Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have come a long way from those offensive college gigs that were tainted by backing tracks.Their ability to dip in and out of genres, cruise through electro glam anthems with agility and conquer gentle chiming melodies means that MGMT will be around for a while. ‘Mystic bullshit’ or not, this is an album that would have definitely inspired Warhol to paint a few soup cans, or maybe even a tin of baked beans.
2008 will always be remembered as the year Brooklyn duo Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden - previously known as Management but now simply the abbreviated MGMT - gave the world songs so catchy and easy, they make you wonder why no one has ever written them before. Heading a huge renaissance of breakthrough Brooklyn bands, songs such as 'Kids' and 'Time to Pretend' had kids dancing all night long in places far, far flung from the New York borough.