MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

The competition for best debut album of 2008 has thus far been fierce, but with Oracular Spectacular MGMT have tossed their hat into the ring in extravagant style<br/>

Album Review by Finbarr Bermingham | 01 Apr 2008
  • Oracular Spectacular
Album title: Oracular Spectacular
Artist: MGMT
Label: Columbia
With our first foray into the world of clairvoyance back in January, The Skinny attempted to 'make your search for the 'Next Big Thing' a little less serendipitous.' In the Broadband Era it's not difficult to find new bands, but it is becoming increasingly challenging to cut the wheat from the chaff. The cream is still rising to the top, so to speak, but the glass is ever more cloudy. Thus far, our success rate has been none-too-shoddy. Local favourites Broken Records are on the verge of releasing their eagerly awaited first single If The News Makes You Sad, Don't Watch It on Young Turks Records, Glasvegas have continued where they left off at the tail-end of '07, their latest single Its My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry has taken up the baton from Daddy's Gone and only managed to add momentum to their ascension. Toronto's Born Ruffians debut album has been receiving rapturously Stateside, with a hotly anticipated May release date on this side of the Atlantic.

The success of MGMT, however, has thus far been unparalleled. For good or ill, with the not-so-insignificant backing of Columbia Records and mainly on the strength of one single (Time To Pretend), the band can only be on the verge of ubiquity. Of course, a recent sold out UK tour and multitude of tv and radio appearances have undoubtedly helped push them into the public consciousness. The trouble with grand entries, however, is that the depth of quality required to stick around at the party is too often absent. MGMT know how to write a good song... an anthem. But can they extend that over a full album?

Hurriedly thrust into the studio due to escalating demand with only a handful of songs written, Oracular Spectacular was thrown together in a matter of weeks. The outcome, ironically, is a lifetime of ideas. As the name might suggest, it's an album loaded with excesses: ambitious and grand and as such, the thumbprints of the masters of pomp are gloriously smudged all over it. There's a Jagger-esque swagger to frontman Andrew VanWyngarden's voice on stripped down acoustic numbers Pieces Of What and the first half of Weekend Wars. The legacy of Aladdin Sane era Bowie is palpable throughout, particularly on the spacey 4th Dimensional Transition. On Electric Feel, MGMT slip into standard issue Jackson 5 1970 funk pants. And guess what? They fit.

The general steer on the album is towards the brassy. The opening electro-kitsch bars of Time To Pretend are reflective of the brazen songwriting on show here, even if only the marvellous Kids is cut from the same cloth stylistically. The frequent deployment of reverb on the rest of the tracks leaves them with a more detached, celestial quality, as likely to descend into kaleidoscopic acid bliss noodlings (Of Moons, Birds And Handshakes) as they are lush harmonies and escalating mantras (The Youth). Those expecting 10 reconstructed Time To Pretends will be surprised, but are unlikely to be disappointed. Given the smorgasbord of sound present and the hastiness with which the tracks were laid down, the fluidity of the album is remarkable and as such, the recruitment of Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Tapes n Tapes) to the mixing desk must be seen as a masterstroke. His renowned cosmic fidgetry compliments the Brooklyn duo's songwriting perfectly.

Whilst some of the tracks (see Future Reflection) don't scale the lofty heights of the standout tracks (of which there are at least half a dozen), there is nothing here that would be eligible for the dreaded 'filler' status, ever a rare achievement first time out. The competition for best debut album of 2008 has thus far been fierce, but with Oracular Spectacular, MGMT have tossed their hat into the ring in extravagant style.
Release Date: 10 Mar
MGMT play ABC, Glasgow with CSS and the Futureheads on 6 May