The psychedelic—applied with the strongest sense of the word—pop music of New England duo MGMT is the equivalent of two college guys hopped up on dangerous amounts of liberty caps who stumbled upon a treasure trove of instruments in a stranger's basement and began making all the noise they could, because—well—why not?
Andrew VanWyngarden confirmed that notion as the core of getting together with bandmate Benjamin Goldwasser in an interview with "Pitchfork" before their 2011 release Congratulations. "We bonded by hanging out and trying to shock people. We thought of ourselves as musical terrorists at shows—we weren't biting heads off bats, but we wanted to annoy and confront people."
Despite the sometimes bizarre nature of their approach to their craft, there are actually sounds MGMT has been able to produce that work. Oracular Spectacular, the duo's debut album, was so likeable that Rolling Stone Magazine named it the 18th best of the last decade. Clearly doing something different from the pack has paid some dividends.
Tracks from that album like "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" traded on big anthem-like structures that utilized enough pop it was easy to overlook the B sci-fi movie soundtrack behind "The Handshake" and the messy Queen-meets-Neil Young track "Of Moons, Birds & Monsters." With high highs and lower lows, the album sounded like an acid trip; just the kind of thing people like to latch onto because it bucks trends. The duo was even nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy.
And the music videos MGMT comes up with are just as deranged. They have featured sickly alien camels, mutilated boogymen terrorizing a baby and most recently, in the video for "Your Life is a Lie" from MGMT's forthcoming self-titled album, a man in a squirrel suit and a neo-hippie eating a banana.
As offbeat as their approach to music can be, there is still a repetitive pattern of oddity that can get old. But of course, as indicated by Goldwasser in a 2008 interview with SPIN, that seems to be just how MGMT likes it.
"We were less about quality, more about absurdity. We were trying to be obnoxious but somehow people got into it."
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31
Les Schwab Amphitheater
344 SW Shevlin-Hixon Dr.
Tickets $35 at www.ticketfly.com