MGMT have grown from their dorm room outfit at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. to international stardom.
Everything started with the music of their 2007 debut, “Oracular Spectacular.” The songs “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” and “Kids” brought the record Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America and received generally favorable reviews across the board. “Oracular Spectacular” included some elements of psychedelic rock, but had an even bigger emphasis on electronic sounds and synthesizers. MGMT blazed the trail for groups of similar styles like Passion Pit and Empire of the Sun to achieve fame and fans in the American market.
By 2010, the duo had upped their personnel to include a full band, and with consistent cash flow from the success of their debut album, they recorded and released their second album “Congratulations.” This album has a similar feel to “Oracular Spectacular,” although they took the psychedelia and ran with it.
“Congratulations” is rooted in mid-1960s rock. It sounds like something The Doors or The Beatles would have contributed to the musical landscape when they were at the peak of their illicit drug use. “Siberian Breaks,” the second single released to promote the record, is a 12-minute-long cornucopia that basically strings together eight different songs in an unexpected, yet charming style. Songs like “Flash Delirium” and “It’s Working” took from some of the same vibes that were produced on the first record by songs like “Of Moons, Birds and Monsters.” MGMT’s sophomore effort took many critics by surprise, but they were appreciated for being bold and steadfast.
When 2013 rolled around, following the releases of singles “Alien Days” and “Your Life Is a Lie,” from their self-titled third album, MGMT was doing the same thing all over again – taking their psychedelic roots and expanding them to new heights. They released the first single and album opener “Alien Days” on a cassette tape format. In an Apr. 21 interview with Rolling Stone, frontman Andrew VanWyngarden said the song is “about that feeling when a parasitic alien is in your head, controlling things.” That quote may leave you speechless, but the music will also shut you up and keep you listening.
“Introspection” is one of my favorite songs on the record, strictly because it is a staple of the classic rock sound that permeates the entire album. There are some weird synthesizers mixed in and some strange sound effects and reverb, but the effect is delightful. It sounds as if it could have been included on Pink Floyd’s first album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” The music from this album will most likely make you picture all kinds of odd colors and shapes.
All in all, the record is incredibly well done. I don’t see it breaking too far into the charts and being successful in the mainstream market, though. As far as MGMT goes, they stuck to their guns, and they did an incredible job of it. If you want to take a journey through the parallels of time and space, or if you feel like living the sounds of the ‘60s through a modern band, this is your record. For fans of psychedelia, the record is top-notch. Taking the mainstream into account, however, the album warrants three-and-a-half stars out of five.