Welcome to Electronic Playground. In this weekly column, we will cover tech-heavy music that is a large segment of the Alternative/Indie movement of today. In general, these bands do not see the popularity of some "less out there" acts, so do not be discouraged if you haven't heard of them. We will focus on all types of electronic music in a genre that is known for its subcategories.
This week, I thought we would discuss an electronic band that has been around for quite a while and helped inspire many of us to listen to electronic music in the first place. The electronic duo of multi-instrumentalists, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, formed the band in 2002 in Middletown, CT. The band features drummer Will Berman, bassist Simon O'Connor, and guitarist and keyboard James Richardson during their live efforts to round out their sound. Originally known as The Management, MGMT changed their name after a couple of early demos because another band had already been using the fully-articulated moniker. The band uses high-pitched synth sounds as a way to drive songs, with an eclectic mix of lyrical content, such as navigating the band's success to the different stages of life. Categorized simply as an "American Rock Band," MGMT's style has been called many things by their fans. One label we like most is "brainy pop with psychedelic overtones." Either way, MGMT continues to keep an element of punk to their music, somehow both forwarding electronic music and attempting to seem too cool for it. The band's first full-length album, Oracular Spectacular, features most of the hits the band is most popular for so we will focus on tracks from there. Despite a bit of a front-loaded career, MGMT is still active today and releasing albums. While the band does have a style, their songs do still offer variety that fans will appreciate.
Kids - MGMT
Although the band had already become popular, some fans learned of MGMT through the use of "Kids" in Johnny McEntee's viral quarterback trick-shot video. The song is featured as the second song on the video as McEntee continues to make near impossible shots through basketball hoops and other fun areas on campus. While the song sounds cute and jovial, the video is not one for kids. The main character of the video is a toddler who is constantly being coddled, watched, and followed by disgusting monsters. The science fiction elements are definitely present in the video and even sound of the song. The band is featured in bright silver suits and makeup that is just as bright. There is a heavy synth and drum background featured throughout that demands your attention when listening to the song. There are minimalist sections which help us appreciate the buildup during the choruses and bridge.
Electric Feel - MGMT
This song deviates a bit from the in-your-face sound of "Kids," but still has a way about bringing you in. The heavy bass and drum lines are super funky, juxtaposed with the barely uttered lyrics of the song that make you want to pay attention. The band has said "Electric Feel" is literally about finding a woman in the Amazon with electricity at her fingertips, but many consider "the woman" to be a personal embodiment of drugs as a person. The interaction with the woman and any sexual impulses suggested or otherwise hint to the constant and recurring struggle of addiction. Considering the band's psychedelic roots, it wouldn't be hard to imagine some influence from LSD or other hallucinogens, but hey, we're no snitches.
How to Listen:
MGMT has been around since just after the fear of Y2K dissolved, but they have done a great job to keep a sound that has not become dated. Well, any more than a genre that was created to constantly sound like the 1980s. The band's sound is still full, unabated by issues with technology. The beats and synth elements of the songs are unique so do not expect them to feel overused or derivative. The band have enough moxie to release songs that make them seem 20 feet tall with just enough sarcasm that you just have to respect them for it.
Band review: 4.3/5. To some of us, MGMT represent the godfathers to their electronic experience. Despite listening over many years, MGMT somehow finds a way to be relevant in our lives no matter what point in the timeline we are. Their unapologetic style and sound will continue to be hit or miss with people, but with many landing on the hit side. Not a diss, but we hear the live experience from MGMT is not quite the energetic experience that listening to the studio albums may be; however, the band does not seems intent on changing its ways. After nearly 20 years, who would expect them to?