Who would’ve thought that two liberal-arts majors from Connecticut would reinvent psychedelic pop for the 21st century? Certainly not Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, who, before signing to Columbia Records as MGMT, had essentially been writing pop songs as a joke. Turns out, irony would be their most potent device on the duo’s 2007 debut album, Oracular Spectacular, in which they spike rock-star cliches and acid-induced paranoia with millennial angst and hipster snark.
“This is our decision, to live fast and die young,” they declare on opener “Time to Pretend,” a mission statement locked to the pace of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and set ablaze in electro-glam-rock glory. Throughout the album’s top half, there’s a sense of holding on to this hedonistic fantasy—if only to poke fun at it—while also lamenting innocence lost. “The youth are starting to change,” VanWyngarden hypnotically echoes over the hazy, carnivalesque “The Youth,” before the two kick into the frisky, funk-fueled “Electric Feel” and buzzing indie club hit “Kids,” whose bristling beats intend to mask the poignancy of faded memories.
By the second half, they shift into hallucinogenic philosophizing, triumphantly trotting into the cavernous psychedelia of “4th Dimensional Transition” and then drifting into a watery goo of bubbling synths on “The Handshake.” What brings it all together is the Midas touch of producer Dave Fridmann, who lets all the synth squeals, bass thumps, and guitar lines pop as he douses it all in thick distortion. In doing so, he plays right into MGMT’s aim to never be taken too seriously—the secret to one of the decade’s most fun and influential indie records.