MGMT Doesn’t Listen to the Voices on the Internet
Published August 13, 2010
MGMT AT LOLLAPALOOZA; PHOTO BY LEILA BRILLSON
A lot of fans want the cherubic Andrew Vanwyngarden and his college buddy, Ben Goldwasser, to be rock stars: the upbeat answer to Grizzly Bear, a weirder Kings of Leon. The problem is, the understated young men who make up MGMT aren’t rock stars. That’s not to say they don’t deserve the thousands of people that crowded the Budweiser stage to watch them perform at Lollapalooza last week, but the rock star persona sold to the public (Neon paint! Kristen Dunst! Grammys!) doesn’t sit right.
That said, the pop appeal of MGMT’s breakout, Oracular Spectacular, ensured that everyone this side of a Justin Bieber concert was humming the infectious dance beat of “Kids” and “Electric Feel.” When the boys set out to make the fluid, winding psych-rock adventure of this year’s Congratulations, fans looking for anthems were crestfallen. “People were really upset that we had a 12-minute song. And they really, really hated the cover… Some people took that personally,” Vanwyngarden reports. Perez Hilton lambasted them; Hipster Runoff regularly uses them for fodder; and Pitchfork gave the album a disappointing 6.8. Yet the album, even with its lack of a clear single, is complicated and compelling, deserving a second and third listen (and sounds great, this writer may add, live). “The people whose voices are on the Internet, on blogs and music review websites, aren’t necessarily the opinions I give a shit about,” says Vanwyngarden. “And the people I do give a shit about have said really positive things. A lot of musicians I respect really like the new album.”
Without singles like “Time to Pretend,” MGMT is selling out shows and inspiring new singalongs. Next week they play Radio City Music Hall. “I can’t believe we are doing that. It’s a really huge place. It’s very New York,” Vanwyngarden says of sharing the stage with The Rockettes. He remembers seeing Kings of Leon there, and he’s excited to play alongside pal and ex-roommate Simon O’Connor (of Amazing Baby), remarks that sound like they come from someone playing Maxwell’s, not Radio City. Perhaps their move towards the experimental cemented their staying power: sure, they aren’t the soundtrack to Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign anymore, but MGMT never aimed for that type of fame (in fact, they sued over it). Instead, they proved they had a complex and labyrinthine album to put out, which, in the end, will provide a much richer legacy.