Release Date: January 22, 2008
It seems to me that much of North American alternative music of late has been Arcade Fire-ized. Blame it on a lack of imagination, I guess. One group makes it huge and everybody jumps on the bandwagon. I, for one, am somewhat sick of it and thus approach new alternative pop with a healthy dose of skepticism.
I had a heard a lot about MGMT before listening to their debut record. I knew they made oddball pop music and what little I had heard from them, unsurprisingly, sounded a bit like Arcade Fire. It was with great relief, then, when I discovered that the band’s full length debut Oracular Spectacular borrows more from 70’s glam and progressive rock (with even a hint of disco) than current trends. Indeed, the entire album is a kaleidoscope of nearly dissonant sounds that at first came off as more of a compilation than a proper release. It is in this diversity, this junkyard grab bag, that MGMT find their own voice, one that looks both backward and forward at once. This is no more apparent than on the opening track, Time To Pretend. A glorious, drug-soaked lament, it certainly builds like a classic Arcade Fire track, but add to that a glam stomp and keyboard riff and you’ve got something entirely different and completely essential.
Elsewhere, the band expertly hints at stabs of Bowie (Weekend Wars), the Bee Gees (Electric Feel) and vintage Sparks (the chorus of The Youth). The second half of the album is a bit more experimental and displays the guys’ obvious affinity for prog rock. These tracks at times stray from the perfect pop of the first half in favor of a fanciful, more evasive edge. Still, this is a very minor complaint and even the most murky tracks become quite wonderful after a few close listens. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that Oracular Spectacular is 2008's first great album. A-
Key Tracks: Time To Pretend, Kids, Weekend Wars