Zach Napora, Contributing Writer
This October, indie-pop band MGMT celebrated the 15th anniversary of their debut album “Oracular Spectacular.” MGMT began as a dorm room experiment between two friends, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Their early work was heavily influenced by noise rock and electronica, which can be heard on tracks like “4th Dimensional Transition.”
“Oracular Spectacular” starts like many great albums do – by telling us how they got there. The first track, “Time to Pretend,” begins with a viscous mess of electronic noise, before transitioning into upbeat indie-pop that is loved by many late-night driving playlists. With the first vocals, these college seniors declare that they are, “feeling rough, I’m feeling raw/I’m in the prime of my life.” While MGMT continues to sing longingly about typical rockstar passions such as moving to Paris, finding a model and doing heroin, the title of the track reveals this as just a fantasy. As they share, they’re “fated to pretend.” Although “Oracular Spectacular” is an album defined by its singles, its theme of youthful innocence is on display on other tracks such as “Weekend Wars,” when they sing about wanting to “scare the children off my lawn.” On “Kids,” the beauty is in its simplicity. The song starts with a ridiculously catchy keyboard riff, which is then joined by a keyboard bassline that gives it even more bounce. Those two sounds layered with simple drums and vocals were all MGMT needed to create a lasting pop anthem.
MGMT is a hard band to box in. Their influence on the indie music scene cannot be understated. While the commercialization of indie rock had already begun before MGMT arrived on the scene, the popularity and widespread appeal of tracks like “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” boosted the ears primed for the genre and the amount of money listeners poured into it. This may be a legacy that MGMT does not appreciate, as their later albums have strayed away from the simpler pop melodies that shot them into brief superstardom in favor of more experimental sounds. For this reason, MGMT cannot just be defined by indie rock or pop. They still draw inspiration from their cluttered dorm room sounds, naming the art-school punk band Talking Heads as a major inspiration. The result is genre-bending psychedelic pop that has stood the test of time. However, one thing is for sure – on the next inevitable coming-of-age movie about late nights, MGMT is on lock to be on the soundtrack.