Review from www.pitchfork.com .
On the first song on their debut record, MGMT let us know how they got here. The rock song-as-origin myth is nothing new– from “Who Do You Love” through “Immigrant Song”, to “We Share Our Mother’s Health” and Kanye West’s “Big Brother”– and “Time to Pretend” situates itself in that canon. Emerging initially from a viscous electronic fluid, the song quickly takes shape as a bombastic electro-glam number about rock star dreams. Accordingly, it’s cheesy and clichéd, but also thick with sarcasm: Before the first chorus, MGMT sing nostalgically about having models for wives, moving to Paris, and shooting heroin. The kicker, though, is in the title itself. Knowing that the Almost Famous notion of stardom doesn’t exist anymore (if it ever did), the duo of Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser realize they’re “fated to pretend.” It’s a charming idea– making a career out of fantasizing– and on Oracular Spectacular, they not only accept their playacting destiny, they demonstrate that, just maybe, it’s a path more people should take.
MGMT find kindred spirits in Muse and Mew by dressing their melodies in the fanciful trappings of 1970s British prog, but unlike their contemporaries the duo also weaves in lessons from disco, new-wave synth-pop, and early 90s Britpop. The understanding that youthful innocence is a potent force– a theme first established in “Time to Pretend”– continues throughout the record. Instead of the “Knights of Cydonia”, though, MGMT fights “Weekend Wars”, ostensibly an ode to the fictionalized childhood battles that treat backyards as independent colonies in need of conquering. The gentle, chiming melody and effete vocals of “The Youth” recall Sparks or Queen at their most restrained moments, and “Kids” comes across as an inspirational dance anthem for playgrounders.
Most impressive on Spectacular is Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser’s ability to dabble, with the shared understanding that whatever they do is Big. “Pieces of What” is an unexpected acoustic guitar piece, but it’s delivered like an outtake from Suede’s Dog Man Star. “4th Dimensional Transition” augments its cavernous psychedelic vocals with a jacked-up BPM count, and on “Electric Feel”, MGMT pull off lithe, falsetto electro-funk surprisingly well. There’s not much to the song aside from a Barry Gibb vocal and limber bassline, but within the context of the rest of Spectacular, it makes perfect sense. In fact, so does the duo’s current tour pairing, as the openers for Of Montreal. Kevin Barnes’ emergence as an icon of theatricalized electro-glam seems the ideal toward which the duo should strive. They’re still young, of course; they’ve got plenty of time to figure that out.