MGMT | Accidental Artists

prof_mgmt_sm.jpg"If anything, we tried to annoy people a little bit. It just so happened that others liked it."





While speaking with Ben Goldwasser of the future ’70s/expanded pop-rock duo MGMT, I wondered whether old-fashioned Horatio Alger dream-to-realities are out and if effortless, accidental, and reluctant triumph is in. "Andrew [Vanwyngarden] and I weren’t really trying to do anything; we were doing it for fun and definitely without the intention of picking up fans," he told me. "If anything, we tried to annoy people a little bit. It just so happened that others liked it." Perhaps overly eager aspiring artists turned monkey grinders are getting old. Maybe a new wave of success due to witty, passive underachieving creates balance and distinction.

During their first tour, Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser sang along to an iPod. Following the release of their EP, Time to Pretend, the Wesleyan University music alums spent a whole two weeks composing and rehearsing for tour number two. "It was funny, because people came to our shows expecting electronic pop music and got ’60s California hippie rock. At that point, I think we tried to alienate every single fan we had."

Regardless of their extreme limit testing, Goldwasser claimed they received a polarized reaction. "That’s what we’re going for." So, where is this invisible hook and what does it look like? "Our songs kept getting stuck in people’s heads. I guess it made them go back and give it a second chance. They were kind of forced to reckon with it, being as they didn’t want to listen to it again, but they had to," Goldwasser quipped.

After their second tour, the two band members didn’t speak for six months. To their surprise and skepticism, said Goldwasser, "An intern who knew a friend at Columbia Records gave our EP to an A&R there. I don’t know what actually convinced them it was a good idea." Understandably, MGMT had reservations due to typical musician sellout horror stories; however, the accidental recruitment of a band claiming no serious effort seems slightly farfetched. Maybe natural ingenuity exists, but my eyebrows arched at high schoolers claiming to down six packs prior to obtaining 1540 SAT scores.

Currently, MGMT (short for management) is balancing a busy tour schedule with Yeasayer amid tour bus telephone interviews. Accessing them on MySpace is a confusing experience, given their supposed surf/jungle/country combination. According to Goldwasser, "It’s kind of a joke, because you have to pick three genres. We’ve been fed up with classifications such as electro-pop or psychedelic rock, because we don’t identify with any of it." You little shit disturbers. It’s great if it’s a fresh, cool promotional technique meant to create some space in the cattle pen; lacing potential with sarcasm is also intriguing.

Image aside, the band recently released their debut album, Oracular Spectacular. It features a familiar ’70s sound with a thick, modern electronic vein. It’s rustic and mystical, combined with lyrics that make heads shake and eyes roll in cynical agreement. Songs such as "Time to Pretend" chide the absurdity of blindingly bright, short-lived pleasures.

MGMT’s free-spirited, straightforward depth makes me hope that the "accidental artists" avoid a permanent "self-saboteurs" suffix. It makes me hope that Goldwasser’s statement, "We’re definitely trying to test people’s attention spans and make music that challenges people," drives them more than prankish randomness. | Lauren Beckerle

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