Review Summary: The “IT” band of the moment creates an album that is as accessibly poppy as much as it is adventurously different. Too inconsistent and not enough standout tracks to come into ‘Album of the Year’ contention though.
They are seemingly the “IT” band of the moment and when one looks back at the year in music, MGMT just may be the biggest story of 2008. All the hype surrounds this album titled ‘Oracular Spectacular’, an LP of 10 tracks that was actually released digitally in November of 2007, before gaining a physical retail release in January 2008.
So is all the hype worth it…??? It depends! If you had not heard any of the duo’s prior releases, then it most probably will be. But if you have previously had the opportunity to listen to their 2005 six-track EP ‘Time To Pretend’, then ‘Oracular Spectacular’ may in fact underwhelm a little. The reason for this is that the 2 highlight tracks from the EP (‘Time To Pretend’ & ‘Kids’) return here. They have been polished up a little, but remain almost identical to their original versions. More tellingly, they are also the highlight tracks here!
Only one other cut on ‘Oracular Spectacular’ approaches the superb quality of the aforementioned 2 songs and that is track 4 ‘Electric Feel. A funky and poppy piece, this immediately contagious cut makes Bee Gee-like vocals cool again, which is no easy feat. The lyrics are rather nonsensical, but who could resist a pick-up line like “Ooh baby, shock me like an electric eel”, which beats out their previous effort of “I know you want to check out my components” from the EP’s ‘Boogie Down’.
Elsewhere, nothing is as memorable as those 3 standout cuts, but there are indeed some notable tracks. The first of these is ‘Weekend Wars’, which begins with strikingly raw vocals before an electronica-laced bouncing beat and falsetto vocals add a jovial nature to proceedings. Meanwhile, the album’s barometer will most likely be track 8 ‘Of Moons, Birds & Monsters’. Musically complex and the most likely cut to grow on a listener, this arguably could be seen as a summation of the entire album’s sound all rolled into one.
In truth, ‘Oracular Spectacular’ does not quite hold up right to the very end and is predominantly front-loaded. However, MGMT do partially succeed in providing sufficient variation to their poppy brand of psychedelic space-rock. They accomplish this by taking a variety of their inspirations from pretty much every decade since the 1960s and combining them into a hook-filled melting pot. Take for example ‘4th Dimensional Transition’, which includes galloping and propulsive drums that make it sound tribal, before middle-eastern flourishes effectively join proceedings later.
This is not the album of the year as some pundits will have you believe. It is too inconsistent for that and there are simply not enough standout tracks when you consider that the album highlights have been recorded previously. However, the album is predominantly successful in achieving MGMT’s objectives for ‘Oracular Spectacular’. The duo have captured the imagination of the mainstream audience that had yet to hear their work by creating an album that is as accessibly poppy as much as it is adventurously different.
Recommended Tracks: Kids, Time To Pretend, Electric Feel & Weekend Wars.