MGMT didn’t plan to be taken seriously at first, but they still managed to reinvent psychedelia for the 21st century. As puckish art students at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser joined forces in 2002 as The Management, writing and performing playful synth-rock punctuated with sardonic barbs. Still, there was some serious bite to their hooks and a sense for melody that would soon be transformed into the thrilling electro-psych-pop anthems of their 2007 debut as MGMT, Oracular Spectacular. With the help of producer Dave Fridmann, the pair crafted one of the decade’s most influential indie records, full of frisky dance beats soaked in woozy synths and fuzzy distortion, and lyrics that overturn rock cliches and idyllic visions of youth. “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” and “Kids” became instant club hits. But instead of churning out more alt-dance bangers, MGMT began leaning heavily into their more esoteric influences, name-checking Brian Eno and Television Personalities’ Dan Treacy on Congratulations, and crafting proggy, twisted, psych-rock freakouts meant to stimulate the brain more than the body. “On our second and third records, we kind of turned inwards, and got a little paranoid, a little dark,” VanWyngarden confessed to Apple Music, “maybe even cynical sometimes.” But their journey would eventually come full circle, as they made a return to levity with 2018’s Little Dark Age, a set of brighter, New Wave-tinted grooves filtered through their warped whimsy and wit. All of which goes to prove that no matter where their path may lead, MGMT will always have the last laugh.
HOMETOWNNew York, NY [Brooklyn]