Oracular Spectacular



by JacoIII USER (2 Reviews)
May 20th, 2008 | 101 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An engaging debut that hits more often than it misses.

Oracular Spectacular

Band: MGMT
Members: Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden
Label: Columbia Records

First thing’s first: this is my first review and if you couldn’t already tell from the word ‘first’ being used five times in the first sentence; I’m a bit nervous.

Don’t let that deter you (the reader) from pointing out flaws, I want to become the best reviewer I can and I can only do that with critical support from my peers.

I hope I haven’t turned you off Oracular Spectacular or MGMT with the above, both the band and album are quite good. In fact, it is impossible not to enjoy at least one song on this album unless Oracular Spectacular was playing on your headphones during a transatlantic plane crash in the middle of the ocean and now you associate the song with aquatic cannibalism. I feel safe in this assertion mainly because I’m relatively sure the water-dwelling-human-eaters of Flight 666 have yet to develop Internet. But enough of my attempted humour, back to the review!

Equal parts squishy synth-pop and Flaming Lips, MGMT’s Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser make us nostalgic for the simpler times of our younger days. “Do what you feel now” they sing repeatedly on Electric Feel, making their opinion of youthful spontaneity heard through a comfy blanket of static and distortion. The opening track Time to Pretend details the glamorous life of a rockstar “I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin and f*ck with the stars” but MGMT know they’re just playacting and later in the song, you’ll be let in on their little joke:

[quote]I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone[quote]

The loneliness of fame, an interesting concept that really does lend itself to art. Although, if fame is so bad, why release a song about it" Wouldn’t that just draw unnecessary attention, and alienation, to yourself" What about people who become famous because they shun recognition (Google “Henry Darger”)" Hmm… well I’m not here to talk about the philosophical exploits of musicians, I’m here to talk about their music.

Most of the songs sound deceptively similar, making heavy use of inorganic but friendly sounds, and while this does give some tracks a slightly mechanical feel, it does little to ruin any significant part of the album. I don’t know how this will affect longevity but I couldn’t give a sh*t really. If you’re savvy enough to read this on the internet you’re probably going to download Oracular anyway (like I did, not to say I wouldn’t buy it if the opportunity presented itself). So you don’t get to complain about longevity.

Let’s look at the individual songs:

Time to Pretend – As a constantly irked Canadian teen raised in the winter wilds of Toronto I truly wanted to hate this song. It was… too warm… too fuzzy… basically the opposite of my environment, I was not prepared. Time to Pretend bubbles over with sincerity through both tone and lyrics. It behaves mainly as a light-hearted jaunt through a rock star’s life and death but follows up by claiming nobody truly buys into the fame. We always pine for our earlier, simpler days. If my reviews on Sputnik really take-off I’ll be able to let you know if this is true (let your friends know).

Beyond that, I’d rather not go into the details of this song. It’s something you have to listen to yourself. 5/5

Weekend Wars – Interesting opening. The vocals seem far rawer when not surrounded by synths. It’s not horrible, just a bit jarring. I think I’d really dislike it if it lasted for an entire song though (foreshadowing"). The rest of the song sticks with the “formula” started by the opening track although it gets a little tiresome around 2:30. But the ending tries and succeeds in making up for it: chanting vocals singing whatever, over an instrumental mélange of… something. That wasn’t the best explanation, but suffice to say the ending resulted in a nice little spine tingle. A very “safe” song, certainly not the best though. 3.5/5

The Youth – “This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together”, the opening lyrics appear to be capturing the overall motive behind the hippie movement. The Youth follows the same pattern as the opening two songs and suffers from it. It does little for me. Too repetitive and too slow, it lumbers through a full 3:48 when it could easily be two-thirds as long. The worst part is that the opening verse got me all excited but the rest fell flat. It’s a 2.5/5 but remember: This reflects its status as an okay song, not necessarily a bad one.

Electric Feel – One of my favourites. A far more ‘electrifying’ (har har) song than The Youth, a quality I am thankful for. I don’t mind if a band does the same thing a few times in a row, but I like to see at least an attempt at a different style. Electric Feel boogies around for a bit with synths that sound vaguely disco-style until it collapses into synths that sound vaguely Oriental-style. It ends with the repetition of “Do what you feel now/Electric eel now” which didn’t anger me as much as the repetitive ending of The Youth. I’m pretty sure that’s because Electric Feel has a superior melody and instrumentation. The lyrical repetition sits in the background and behaves more like another instrument rather than vocals. 4.5/5

Kids – Thumping, fuzzy and fantastic. Kids is the third great song on Oracular Spectacular and the only one that really threatens Time to Pretend for the crown of “Best Song” on this album. I’d rather not discuss the positives as that would take too long. The only issue is that it drags a bit during the instrumental but you’ll only care if you truly want to find a flaw. I don’t know why you’d do that; maybe you hate music or something. Just enjoy this great song. 5/5

4th Dimensional Transition – A very entertaining song the first few listens but it begins to falter as it can become repetitive. It’s not something I’d listen to attentively, maybe in the background while working or reading. It also contains one of my most hated enemies in the music world: the overly long ending. If done properly, it can offer a calming decrescendo to a loud, rough song or an emotional shift in an upbeat pop song. But done incorrectly it is simply aggravating. Yes, I get it: the song is over, let’s get to the next track please. 4th Dimensional Transition contains a final 45 seconds of the same two cords and continuous “ooohing”. It’s pointless and mildly angering. That being said, I didn’t take my own advice and paid close attention to this song. Therefore, I’m offering my rating of 3/5 with a grain of salt.

Pieces of What – One of the worst songs on this album. Remember what I said about the opening of Weekend Wars" Yeah, it’s like that, except for 2:44, which is exactly 2:34 seconds longer than I want to hear his unaltered voice. The last 45 seconds do much to redeem the entire song and I may, one day, believe this to be more than the 2.5/5 I’m giving it right now. If that day comes, I assure you the rating increase will be based solely on the strength of that last ¾ of a minute.

Of Moons, Birds & Monsters – It’s good, but how good" Of Moons, Birds & Monsters contains plenty of fun moments, but there is something preventing it from being a song I can really get into. It may be the overly zealous use of sound effects in the background in the last 2 minutes, but I couldn’t say for sure.

On the plus side, the first two minutes are thoroughly enjoyable. Another pro: this song does have a well executed “long ending” (about 1:16) so I’d like to offer this as the opposite of 4th Dimensional Transition. It’s a 3.5/5 but not an enthusiastic one.

The Handshake – I think I heard this one already… Nope, sorry, that’s just the vague sense of déj* vu that’s been following me since the first track of this album. Don’t take this as a criticism; The Handshake is familiar in a good way. It’s slow, relaxing but contains yet another too long ending.

I’m happy to say it isn’t as bad as the one found in 4th Dimensional Transition but listening to it wasn’t an enjoyable experience for me. 3.5/5

Future Reflections – I like this even though it suffers a bit of the same déj* vu carried over from The Handshake. It has a much more subdued quality to it. The voices frequently mix with the instrumental and it adds much to the song. The song Pieces of What suffered mainly because MGMT forced the vocals. Their strength is in mixing everything together to create a cohesive package. Future Reflections, I would argue, is the best example of what MGMT sounds like. It certainly isn’t the best song, but it does showcase everything on this album in a neat 3:57 package. 4/5

Final word: It’s a very good debut and I can honestly say I’m excited to see where Oracular Spectacular takes MGMT.

Numerical average (hint: this doesn’t matter): 3.7/5

My review (hint: this matters): 4/5

Recommended Songs:

Time to Pretend
Electric Feel

user ratings (1578)
other reviews of this album
DaveyBoy STAFF (3.5)
The “IT” band of the moment creates an album that is as accessibly poppy as much as it is advent...

CrazyFool84 (3)
A decent first outing in this incarnation, the album has a lot of potential summer singles...

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 20th 2008


Album Rating: 2.5

i saw these guys on Conan and they were pretty awesome. i'll have to look into this

May 20th 2008


Album Rating: 2.5

ahhh now for some feedback. decent first review. if i were you i'd stray away from track-by-track reviews. there are only a handful of users here on sputnik who prefer them. and your (as you said) attempt at humor.....errrr...... was a failed attempt. i was kind of embarrassed just reading you trying to be funny. next, i don't like the whole numerical average/your review rating. just stick to one rating (the one that matters). with all that said you are a good writer, you just need to develop a better format. so, i will vote

May 20th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Okay, thanks for your honest opinion. I'm leaving the attempt at humour (yeah I noticed while writing how unfunny it was, left it for spite) as a reminder of what not to do.

It was actually on the site before, I had to resubmit it.

May 20th 2008


Pretty bland album, but "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" are excellent.


As a misogynistic Canadian teen

Is misogynistic the word you're going for here?This Message Edited On 05.20.08

May 21st 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Heh heh, that's what I get for using words larger than my vocabulary.

I was under the impression that it meant a "general dislike of everything" rather than a "dislike of women" (sorry to any who were offended). I'll change it to "irked" or something.

May 28th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

Hey, dont be so hard on yourself, great first review on a great album. But, I love the tracks tracks you gave the lowest ratings to, lol. And for the record, I dont mind the track by track thing, as long as it doesnt take up the whole review.

May 28th 2008


Album Rating: 3.0

'Kids' is the shit.

everything else is the same track.

June 5th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

absolutely love 'kids' and 'electric feel,' with 'time to pretend' slightly below those two imho. 3 great tracks on a pretty decent album

June 7th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Just as a note. For the purposes of this review, the album was overplayed and I now refuse to listen to anything other than "Kids" or "Time to Pretend".

Sad, I liked the album before I wrote the review, now I can't stand it. I guess I'll have to only write about albums I hate.

I've noticed more people talking about MGMT recently. Good on em, hope they succeed.

Also, thanks for the kind words! I was thinking of doing another review and if it weren't for exams it would already be done.

June 20th 2008


Track by track reviews do become tedious. Although I don't like MGMT, it is true that it's impossible not to enjoy at least one track. Anyhow, the vocabulary is refreshing, if not a bit erratic.
A very good first review. Just cut down on the "humor" a bit, and you're set.
I have yet to write a review...hmm... D:

June 20th 2008


This band has absolutely nothing to offer
bands like these need to stop

June 22nd 2008


Album Rating: 1.5

Horrible introduction. Don't belittle yourself in your review, just write it and take whatever criticism you get.

July 14th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

With all the hype surrounding these guys recently, I just had to check them out.

I wasn't disappointed at all.

Time to Pretend will forever be etched into my mind.

Kind of reminds me of the guys that did 'Forever Young' - I just they don't vanish too.

Edit: Any MGMT/Justice fans (or anyone interested) check out the Justice remix of Electric Feel, if you haven't already This Message Edited On 07.14.08

July 22nd 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

this shit rules

July 31st 2008


Nice review man.

Good work =]

And your opinions pretty much same as mine.

August 5th 2008


Album Rating: 2.5

Time To Pretend has grown on me. I listened to that song like 15 times yesterday

August 5th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

kids is prolly the greatst song ever

August 8th 2008


I actually liked the attempt at humor. :/

Pretty good first review, guy.

August 14th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond.

September 1st 2008


Album Rating: 2.5

So I've listened to this full album once and the overall album is pretty inconsistent, but it's still a fairly good listen. "Time To Prend," "Kids," and "Electric Feels" are pretty obvious highlights but it shows that their poppy stuff is superior to their spacey/chill moments

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