MGMT – pronounced “management” — is an electro-rock duo consisting of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. This may be the first time you’ve heard their names, but it probably won’t be the last. With increasing critical support and a recent appearance on Letterman, MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular” is shaping up to be one of the biggest major label debuts of 2008.
Pros: Often danceable, occasionally progressive, “Oracular Spectacular” is always messy and psychedelic.
Despite a tendency towards the eclectic — “Electric Feel” finds the band getting in touch with their funky side, while “Pieces of What” feels decidedly like a folk anthem — the album retains a strong sense of flow and unity throughout.
Cons: One of MGMT’s most charming characteristics is their disaffected nonchalance, but it’s also their most frustrating. It’s simply hard to get passionate about music that the artists themselves only seem moderately interested in. The fact that certain tracks are marred by irksome repetition only compounds the problem.
Definitive Track: Album opener “Time to Pretend” matches clever, sardonic lyrics with a gurgling bass synthesizer and an indelible hook. It may sound like the makings of dispensable pop fluff, but there’s quality songwriting at work here. In addition to a surprisingly earnest lyrical turn near the end, the music is carefully nuanced.
Conclusion: MGMT has a clear affinity for experimentation and eccentricity, yet the lush “Oracular Spectacular” never strays too far from its pop roots. An admirable feat, but until MGMT finds that vital spark, that something that can propel them out of their comfortable niche, they will always be just short of spectacular.
Entertainment writer Nick Scheidees can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.