MGMT – Manchester Night and Day - 1.3.08

MGMT’debut album Oracular Spectacular isnt gonna re-write the gospel, in-fact at points its difficult to imagine them having the ability to guide a pen, let alone scribe something. But, there exists amongst the hyperbole a degree of insurance that MGMT could deliver us the ‘worlds greatest new band’.

This insurance is in their live performance. On record the dizzying dressings of tracks such as ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ imitate a future funk, typical of ‘bands’ such as OutKast and to a certain extent The Scissor Sisters. Underneath this juvenile façade (produced by Dave Friedman of Flaming Lips fame) is a direct honesty that’s royally shafted by childish trickery. Current single ‘Time To Pretend’ is an example where the balance is tamed somewhat, drifting between bubble-gum pop and experimental fanfare, the result is chaotically different from any other current sound. But where the band excel is in both in the Syd Barret era floyd and the more staple Spartan structure of tracks like the anthemic ‘Pieces of What’.

Tonights opener ‘Weekend Wars’ is a great example of their psychedelic Barret facination which see’s front-man Andrew VanWyngarden  at his most nasal and trippy. Morphing from standard 4/4 into 70’s style prog, then into pastoral flourishes sounds agonising, but somehow it’s a natural progression in the eyes of MGMT. And in none other does it work better than the jittering thud of ‘The Handshake’. Drenched in reverb and Andrew’s infant vocal delivery, the track twists and bucks through the proggy (almost spinal tap in essence), into a thumping final refrain, and live theres the added grace of a wall of feedback. Live its spectacular, and a disparate more deviant beast once fleshed out in its rawest form. In contrast the delicacy of ‘Pieces of What’ shows a maturity and a innate writing ability for exposed poignant gestures, a classic anti-war song that could footmark the final throws of the ‘Wonder Years’. Tracks like ‘Kids’, their more overt stab at funk-pop don’t feature tonight, and rightly so, as its infantile stance is a far cry from what they’ve become, in live form at least.

Tonight the sugar pop blast of latest single ‘time to pretend’ pails in comparison when confronted with ‘Pieces of What’ and the inimitable ‘The Handshake’, but as with all the live versions, instead of the callow fragrance of Outkast, a grimy Warlocks aroma takes over. That’s not to say live they’re the backyard drugged up squall of the aforementioned, theres just more than the faintest whiff of 60’s drone.

If at points Oracular Spectacular is grating and unconventionally obtuse, its not through over-indulgence nor experimentalism, its more an ostentatious attempt to confuse. This brazenfaced trickery can be forgiven on record.
Live they need no forgiveness.

Words / Photo: Dan Pratley

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