The Red Alert
The Red Alert

MGMT

Time to Pretend

(Cantora)

Record Review by Adam McKibbin

 

A band knows they’ve done alright for themselves when fans and labels alike start descending upon a previously ignored back catalog.  That’s the case for MGMT, who had a breakout year in 2008.  What’s the origin story?  The reissued Time to Pretend EP paints a picture of a young band already living up to some of their big-time potential, but still in the process of fine-tuning and embellishing their sound.

 

Take the title track, which kicks off the EP and presents a more laid-back version of the grandiose mission statement on Oracular Spectacular.   The triumph of the “final” version is toned down, but the skeleton of the song is intact – it’s definitely not the sort of thing where hitmakers came in and did an extreme makeover.  Their knack for pop hooks was present from the start.  The same goes for “Kids,” positioned as the other bookend.  Probably the most irresistible track on Oracular Spectacular, its early incarnation has the same gleeful hook and the same buzzing sheets of sound, just with a few lo-fi flourishes, most notably a weaker vocal that, again, sounds a little too detached or laidback to tap into the full delirium-inducing potential of the track.  Normally arguments could be made to the contrary, and purists could say “Well, it was better when it was more stripped-down, when it sounds more spontaneous, when it was made more economically.”  But MGMT isn’t about – or shouldn’t be about – economy.  They wear studio gloss very well, and they’re the sort of group that should be (as they are) be getting remixed by Soulwax and the like.

 

So the scorecard so far:  casual fans and the curious should find the more evolved versions of “Time To Pretend” and “Kids,” while the versions on the EP will almost certainly be of supplemental interest to fans who’ve soaked up Oracular Spectacular.

 

What of the rest?  The above guidelines hold true there as well; newcomers shouldn’t start here, but fans should certainly add it to their collection.  “Boogie Down” takes some funky cues from Prince, but also shows off some ambient electronic leanings.  It doesn’t quite come together, but certainly would be a worthy B-side.  “Destrokk” kicks up the video game vibe and lands one of the band’s most contagious chorus (in part because it’s got a good melody and in part because it’s repeated a hundred times).  Repetition trips them up on “Love Always Remains,” the weakest track on the EP, made grating by an irritating effect on the vocal hook.  “Indie Rokkers” lives up to its name and pushes the band’s indie rock influences to the forefront (including some Interpol-styled guitars), giving the EP an unexpected and moody twist that works nicely.  As always with MGMT, it works best when you turn up the volume. 

Charlie Pickett - Bar Band Americanus

www.whoismgmt.com

 

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