Cast your mind back to 2008. The day-glo drug disco of nu rave is slowly starting to wane as three-day come downs with only the ringing sounds of Shitdisco to keep you company start to become a bit less MDMA-zing. Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’ is keeping The X Factor‘s seemingly unstoppable chart dominancy charging ahead. The concept of the viral Youtube smash is in its infancy and ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘Friday’ and the ‘Harlem Shake’ are but evil glints in the internet’s eye.
If you were a fan of aspirational, effervescent, psych-tinged pop bangers, however, then 2008 will mainly be remembered as the year of MGMT. The wonky, parping intro to breakthrough hit ‘Time To Pretend’ was everywhere and debut LP ‘Oracular Spectacular’ brought Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser storming into the limelight and to the top of NME’s Albums of the Year poll.
The duo seemed unstoppable, but it wasn’t to be. The more experimental, odd and wickedly underrated offerings of 2010’s ‘Congratulations’ and 2013’s self-titled LP failed to ignite the same commercial flame and MGMT seemed relegated to early evening festival billings forevermore.
Yesterday, however, the band sent out a festive tweet teasing a new record in 2016 and showing the kind of self-confidence that suggests the pair aren’t content to sit back on the sidelines any more.
Here’s what we want from Album Four and why, if they pull it off, a success could be one of 2016’s best comebacks.
Pristine pop vs total weirdness
The beauty of MGMT at their finest (see: ‘Electric Feel’, ‘Brian Eno’, ‘Kids’) is that they splice big, bright, shimmering pop sensibilities with the kind of squelching oddness that Syd Barrett might call out as a bit strange. The tracks that haven’t resonated so much with fans are the ones where the balance is off, but if Ben and Andrew can find the perfect middle ground then there’s few who can match them.
After Nirvana had achieved ridiculous worldwide success with ‘Nevermind’, Kurt Cobain set about trying to write a record (‘In Utero’) that was angry and difficult and cast away the fairweather fans. You could argue that MGMT have followed a similar path: after the enormous success of ‘Oracular Spectacular’, they set about pushing their experimental, idiosyncratic sides forward and letting their psychedelic pool of influences show. MGMT were not content to just be a happy clappy pop band. Now, however, the biggest curveball they could throw would be to come back with an album full of bangers. They’ve shown they can write trippy, ethereal gems: now let’s see the other side of them again.
From Swim Deep to Yak to Superfood, you can bet that a large number of this generation’s young contenders have an MGMT album or two on their record shelves. A return to form record would be not only hugely welcomed, but timely: we’re hoping for somewhere in between Swim Deep’s sonic collage of a second album ‘Mothers’ and Tame Impala’s warped psych-dance LP ‘Currents’.
Sure, it might seem like we’re gunning for ‘Oracular Spectacular mk II’ here, but that’s only ‘cos we’re a sucker for a pop hook. Realistically, MGMT haven’t made a bad album to date. ‘Congratulations’ was an exciting, eclectic rattle through so many ideas you could barely keep up; ‘MGMT’ delved into a Pink Floyd-esque nightmare/ fantasy-scape (depending on the track), flitting between monotone drones and space-age synths with barely a pause. Together, the three records form a body of work that’s inventive, playful, rule-breaking and downright fun. It’d be a damn shame if the band were remembered mainly as mid-noughties hype success rather than as a group that constantly evolved and reinvented themselves over time. Come on Album Four – let’s help the history books out a bit.