Congratulations album art
While MGMT's live sound includes a drummer, bass and backing guitar/vocals, MGMT (formerly "The Management") was formed by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, a couple of spacey chaps that met at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, in or around 2004. They used to do 20-minute electronic/psych-rock shows in their dorms and later released the EP Time To Pretend that earned them instant fame and opening gigs for the likes of Radiohead and Of Montreal.
However, they didn't go straight from mini-fridges and George Foreman's to big arenas. They've played many small venues in the Northeast, including Higher Ground, in Burlington. I went to see them at the SoCo Music Experience in 2008 (sponsored by Southern Comfort) in Altamont, NY. It was a free festival and included Justice, Lotus and The Whigs, with MGMT headlining, but they were a no-show. We were told their drummer dropped something on his foot ... It don't matter, the other bands were great and there was more Southern Comfort than you could shake a stick at, in addition to Bag-O tournaments and a screen printing exhibition.
MGMT has been embraced by the rebellious youth, partying college kids and 20-somethings like me. Their rise to stardom has been the subject of some debate ... a pretty cool one at that: What makes a band an instant hit with the masses?
Here's my theory:
1. They have hooks. You don't find as many in Congratulations, but Oracular Spectacular was full of catchy melodies.
2. Goldwasser and VanWyngarden have "the look." They look like rock stars and they play the part. They sleep with models, kick around Brooklyn clubs and wander around backstage at festivals in a drug-induced haze. That, along with their 70's era clothing and Ray Ban sunglasses make them poster boys of restless youth.
3. It's eclectic and mysterious. Their music is an acid-wash mix of The Beatles, The Kinks, surf rock, neo-folk and dance rock. VanWyngarden's vocals rarely take center stage, rather blending cohesively with the synthesizers. This all adds to the intrigue. Of course, we love what we don't understand ... it scares us and we like it.
Because of the mass appeal, and despite the leak, Congratulations will be a big seller and will get plenty of radio play. But, since they've gone off and explored new territories and didn't offer many radio singles (the song Congratulations is one for sure), it won't match the success of Oracular Spectacular.
MGMT is one of those bands that controls their own destiny. It will be interesting what they choose to do with it.