4 To Watch: MGMT

Clashing Irony and Sincerity

Music Features MGMT
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4 To Watch: MGMT

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Members (L-R): Andrew VanWyngarden (vocals), Ben Goldwasser (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals)
Fun fact: When MGMT played at a local fair, they enlisted cheerleaders to dance along with the performance.
Why they’re worth watching: MGMT says its music follows “neo-psychedelic fashions,” yet asks that the word “psychedelic” not “be used to describe this music in any case.”
For fans of: Fiery Furnaces, Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem 

Sometimes eclecticism can cause a problem. In 2002, when Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser formed the wide-ranging duo MGMT (pronounced “Management”), their con?icting interests—from Bob Dylan to electro-pop—caused them to waffle on what they wanted to sound like. “We started out just playing loops on our computers and doing weird noises and stuff over them," VanWyngarden says. "Then, midway through college, we started writing more poppy songs."

After years of vacillating between experimental noise and sarcastic pop songs, MGMT hit on a way to bridge the gap between these musical extremes. Now their sound hides its complexity behind big hooks and danceable beats. “The songs are poppy and melodic, but there’s unconventional structure,” Goldwasser says. By following re?ections on 9/11 with sardonic lyrics about sleeping around, even the band seems unable to tell if they’re being ironic or sincere. “They both ?t there,” Goldwasser continues. “We’re still having a lot of fun with it, but at the same time we're taking on some pretty serious shit."

The mix of dance beats and clashing tones on MGMT’s debut LP, Oracular Spectacular, lends the album a woozy, disjointed feeling, like speaking with someone who knows some English but won’t let on exactly how much. “It’s kind of like being creative and being destructive—want these opposites to come forth in the music and we want it to be confusing and contradictory,” VanWyngarden says. “We wanted to agitate people a little bit but still make it so they really want to listen to it again, even though they’re annoyed. I think that we accomplished that really well.”