MGMT - Complete Discography
Oracular Spectacular (2007)
"We're fated to pretend"
Best Song: Time to Pretend
Worst Song: Future Reflections
Ooooooo, artsy, modern synth-pop. Now THAT'S a combination that I can deal with. Since synth-pop is such an overriding genre of music in our modern culture, it seems only fitting that there would be some artists out there who were willing to create a more artistically ambitious version of this boring, oft-irritating form of music. (Sort of like how Kate Bush made an artistic version of 80s pop.)
Sadly, there aren't as many artists out there willing to do this as would be preferable. Pretty much every decent artist out there these days either sounds like a slightly modernized version of older music (The Flaming Lips) or something entirely different (Radiohead). Thankfully, we have MGMT to fill this gap for us.
Of course, this still isn't exactly straight synth-pop. Space rock epics like "Of Moons, Birds, & Monsters" and "The Handshake" don't exactly sound like Carly Rae Jepsen. (And this whole space rock thing would be carried to far greater extents on the next album, but that's beside the point, for now.) But hey, in general, this stuff isn't TOO far from your average top 40 schlock....at least in basic sound. The melodies, lyrics, and arrangements FAR exceed that stuff.
This is best exemplified in the obvious stand-out tracks "Time to Pretend" and "Kids". "Time" features a great synth loop, some awesome vocal melodies and harmonies, and to top it all off -- some surprisingly poignant lyrics about growing up and moving on with your life after leaving home. "Kids" has an immediately gripping synth riff, absorbing textures, and yet another awesome vocal melody, particularly in the chorus.
"Weekend Wars" is quite possibly the greatest early 70s Bowie impersonation EVER, both in style and vocals. Andrew does a startlingly accurate impersonation of the man, especially in the verses. Also, the melody would fit in perfectly on Hunky Dory, or some such album.
Also going for a slightly Bowie feel (this time going for Young Americans-esque "plastic soul") is the awesome "Electric Feel". Great bass line, great melody and backing vocals, great guitar playing -- yup, "Electric Feel" is a keeper. It's also notable in that it PERFECTLY nails the image of a neon-lit, metropolitan city for me. Yep-er.
Going away from the poppy material, we get the prog-y, 4-minute epic "Of Moons, Birds, & Monsters", which has a seriously great chorus melody, as well as an awesome guitar solo. "The Handshake" is another cool, anthemic prog-y number with yet ANOTHER awesome vocal melody. The quieter moments are a bit boring, though.
I'm not too crazy about the closing "Future Reflections", what with it's almost-ambient musical backing and non-existent vocal melody. I'm not too crazy about the sweeping "The Youth" either, even if the instrumental sections are awesome. That melody is just a bit blah to me, 'cept for the chorus.
"4th Dimensional Transition" sounds almost like The King of Limbs-era Radiohead, and on a catchy synth-pop album, I'm not sure that's a good thing. The melody has its moments, but yeah, I'm not feeling this one either.
So yeah, not bad. Not bad at all. If you want some catchy modern pop music that actually has some brain to it, I can't recommend this enough. And heck, those that hate modern pop could probably find some things to like here too. Of course, classic rock fans should probably grab the next album first, but hey....we'll get there in time.
P.S. Did you know that this album was recorded by two people? TWO PEOPLE?!?!? I wanna raise the grade by two just because of that!! Of course, I won't, but still, that's absolutely incredible. At this album's highest moments, it sounds like a friggin' army! TWO PEOPLE!!!!!
Metanoia (EP) (2008)
"Mystic referee, don't look on me with scorn!"
Best Song: Metanoia
Worst Song: Metanoia
Anyway, the style here is COMPLETELY different from anything on Oracular Spectacular. It's sort of like "Bohemian Rhapsody", if that song went on for half a half an hour. So, the sound itself? It's all over the map. Some parts sound like Yes, some parts sound like Funeral-era Arcade Fire, some parts sound like Bowie, some parts sound like a video game soundtrack, and some parts are just flat-out unexplainable weirdness. Heck, one section is eerily similar to the opening section of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android". But there is one thing in common with all of these sections -- they all sound really cool.
So why the 10? Simple. Despite the neat style changes and instrumentation, there's not a single memorable melody on here. So yes, it's a pleasurable listen, but there's really nothing here to bring you back. Still though, it's 0.99 cents for a 14 minute song, so if this sounds up your alley, by all means, go for it.
"You know it's not the same as love / 'Cause love is only in your mind, not your heart"
Best Song: It's Working
Worst Song: Someone's MissingBravo. Simply, bravo. Our boys have completely defied all expectations and released...this! And what is this, you ask? It's a simply genius album, filled chock to the brim with interesting ideas, instrumentation, and melodies. Sure, not all of the melodies are perfect, but still....it's totally worth hearing.
First off, it sounds NOTHING like either of the band's works up to this point. Sure, Metanoia was getting close to being this experimental, but ah, this is different. You see, the band combined a massive variety of older influences (mid-70s Eno, Pink Floyd, surf rock, Bowie, loads of psychedelia, baroque music) with modern technical wizardry to create an album that sounds both immediately familiar and immensely modern.
This is made no clearer than on the opening track, "It's Working". Man, I heard this song one time and then proceeded to immediately buy the album. It's that good. The sound can be described as essentially a more anthemic, symphonic version of Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam", but the song is so far beyond that one that it almost hurts me to compare the two. It's similar in that it's psychedelic surf rock, but from there, the similarities end. "Sam"'s melody doesn't hold a candle to this one. And while the first half of the song may seem a bit blah at first, it's definitely a grower. And besides, you're not here for the first half of the song, oh no, you're here for the triumphant chants "It's working in your blood!!!". That's right, the last half of the song is comprised entirely of one set of lines repeated over and over again, with more and more background singers joining in until the song's sound is positively massive. Not to mention that it's absolutely catchy as heck. We got mind-blowing stuff, here, folks.
Also mind-blowingly good is "Flash Delirium", a song that packs about 15 style/tempo shifts in under five minutes. Oh, and did I mention that they all feel perfectly natural, and that each section has a brilliant melody? OK, now I did. Also fantastic is "I Found a Whistle". It starts out sounding sorta like "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", but it eventually morphs into something resembling...anthemic 50s doo-wop?!?! And all the while, the melody is genius?!?! Oh, how I love this album!
Not to mention that we also have the fun, catchy "Brian Eno", a hilarious, loving tribute to the man who every person who's ever been classified as "indie" holds dear. The 12-minute "Siberian Breaks" rules mercilessly, and in all honesty, I like it better than "Metanoia". It's very, very reminiscent of mid-70s prog, as well as "The Sound of Silence" from The F'Lips' At War with the Mystics (which was also reminiscent of mid-70s prog). Anyways, this awesome, beautiful prog stuff goes on for a while, but around the five-minute mark, the prog-y elements dissipate and transform into a gorgeous, sweeping modern pop ballad. (Think a more space-y version of the band Fun.) This goes on for about a minute, and then the prog elements return in a glorious, mellotron-full fashion. In all honesty, this section probably goes on a bit too long, but that's OK, because the next section is completely awesome. It sounds kinda like a more mystical version of the rocking part from The Kinks' "Shangri-La", and that is most certainly a compliment. This is then followed up with a reprise of the calm, beautiful opening section, followed by an absolutely breathtaking, ambient-esque cascade of beautiful, bubbling synths that close out the song. Wow. Oh, and the fact that the triumphant, rocking "Brian Eno" follows this near-cathartic effect works PERFECTLY in "waking up" the listener after the lengthy, relaxing "Siberian Breaks".
The manic "Brian" is then followed by a large sigh, signaling the beginning of the regal, baroque "Lady Dada's Nightmare". I feel that the band was kind of going for a "On Some Faraway Beach" feel here, as the song starts off with nothing more than a simple harpsichord line, and then gradually builds to include synth noises, strings, booming drums, etc., before gradually fading back out into nothing but the initial harpsichord line. Of course, it's not quite as affecting as "Faraway Beach" (Heck, at times it seems almost tongue-in-cheek), but it's still a fine song, and it's very pleasant while it's on. Following "Lady Dada" is the album closer, the mellow, acoustic title track. It's not a major stand-out, but it's got a nice melody, it's very pretty, and it works perfectly as an ending to the album.
The only tracks that I'm not crazy about are "Song for Dan Treacy" and "Someone's Missing". "Dan Treacy" is pleasant enough while it's on, but the only really memorable thing about it is the "he's made his mind up" hook. "Someone's Missing" spends the first 75% of its running time floundering about in boring atmospherics, before finally exploding in a triumphant, rocking final 30 seconds. It's short, so it doesn't really hurt the album alot, but it is a bit disappointing, especially since the last bit of it is so much fun.
I can't give it anything higher than a 12, simply because the thing is just so darn reminiscent of music that's been made already, and there's not enough here that's just SO overwhelmingly good that I can get past that entirely. But a few songs are, and nearly everything here is really, REALLY solid. Very highly recommended.