MGMT Drown Out Critics With A Wall of Psychedelic Sound
Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT strums a chord and lets his hair flow over his eyes, basking in the blue afterglow as spotlights surround him. Ironically, the spotlight is the very thing MGMT have been avoiding since the massive success of their 2007 debut. In fact, the band that broke through with “Time to Pretend,” now pretends they aren’t even there.
All you’d have to do is press play to realize self-titled MGMT (their 3rd LP, released this week) is a major departure from the pop-sensible formula that made MGMT so popular in the first place. They’ve ditched the radio friendly sounds for trance-inducing psychedelia, and something tells me it’s the type of music they were drawn to all along.
So why are music critics calling for their heads—commonly using descriptors like “uninspired” and “disinterested”—and what makes them one of the most divisive artists in music today?
It all goes back to the peculiar idea that MGMT owe their critics something. A recent scathing review in Consequence of Sound argues that countless bands would “kill for such a spotlight.” It all plays into the idea that they’re squandering an opportunity by making the music they want to make, as if the major label record deal with Columbia and their early pop hooks obligated them to a career of Billboard topping records. Not so.
MGMT decided, instead, to forgo a career’s worth of MTV VMA (remember those?) invitations, and pursue the type of music that inspired them most. They chose progression over repetition, for better or worse. It’s the same gutsy move that bands like Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, and hell, even The Beatles all made at one point.
Radiohead, for example, could have made “Creep” over and over again, and been multi-millionaires (which they still managed) in the same way that MGMT could have continually cloned “Electric Feel.” You can bet scores of critics called Radiohead out for it, until they were forced to eat crow, yet the criticism never seemed to reach the fever-pitch it has with MGMT.
Uninspired. Disinterested. We would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids. It all sounds the same. Maybe it’s because they’ve been pinned with this “lazy hipster” image, assuming they didn’t deserve the film licensing placement or the marketing onslaught their early success brought. Let’s not forget that they earned all that by creating compelling music in the first place.
MGMT have taken the road less traveled. They looked at a career of idly churning out radio hits and decided it wasn’t for them. As a result, they’ve pushed their boundaries and created two albums that are inconsistent at times, but unique and interesting journeys nonetheless. It’s music that challenges the listener, and while it may not be for everyone, it rewards those that give it time.
This band revels in a world without structure. In their live show, they prefer to jam and improvise on the psychedelic soundscapes they create. It’s really something worth seeing. It comes naturally for them, and that’s more than you can say for their earlier material. As enjoyable as those songs were, MGMT still has the ability to create music that resonates, all you have to do is listen.
Click here to see MGMT live!
Article by Nicolas White