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MGMT's new album review


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MGMT take fans on a psychedelic trip

PARIS (AFP) - Rock duo MGMT, one of the top bands on Brooklyn's vibrant music scene, release a new album Monday which leans heavily on their psychedelic influences and challenges fans' expectations.

"I hope it changes some people's minds about what is acceptable as a pop song", Ben Goldwasser told AFP just before "Congratulations" hits the shops.

MGMT's first album in 2008, "Oracular Spectacular" was hailed by critics as one of the best of the year, but the two former students from the East Coast's Wesleyan University did not want to produce more of the same.

"We understand that a lot of people, especially those who only know the singles from the last album and didn't care for the rest of (it) are going to have a hard time getting this album."

"Time To Pretend", "Kids" and "Electric Feel" were big hits and propelled Andrew VanWyngarden and Goldwasser to the forefront of Brooklyn's new wave, alongside Vampire Weekend or Yeasayer.

"Oracular Spectacular" mixed catchy carefree singles and more esoteric tracks that drew on the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s.

For "Congratulations", MGMT have concentrated more on the latter, with tracks such as "Siberian Breaks" running at over 12 minutes and full of guitar chords, psychedelic keyboards and vocal harmonies.

"On this album we're definitely very conscious of where the ideas are coming from and we really wanted to reference as many of the things that we love as we could," Goldwasser explained.

"We never try to hide our influences. I think the bands that are more upfront about where they get their influences from are often more creative than the ones who try to hide them".

"Song for Dan Treacy" is a homage to the leader of the cult group Television Personalities, while the track "Brian Eno" is a quirky tribute to the British experimental musician and producer.

MGMT invited another of their heroes, Brit Pete Kember, otherwise known as Sonic Boom, to produce the album, and Jennifer Herrema, the iconic singer of now disbanded US rock outfit Royal Trux, lends her vocals.

With "Congratulations" MGMT have also dealt openly with much of the pressure they were under after their early success.

Goldwasser says the new album was written when he and VanWyngarden were going through a period of "being confused and trying to piece together what was going on in our lives".

That said, they did not want to produce something that was too self-centred, "it is not like this album for us is only about being in a band, or fame or touring or other bands".

"It's about so many different things (...) for us it's an album that's happy and sad at the same time. It changes mood a lot, and takes you somewhere".

Following a leak on the Internet, MGMT have allowed their new album to be listened to for free online.

Reactions posted on fans' forums so far have been divided, but Goldwasser dismisses suggestions the new collection is in any way "obscure", insisting the songs are still "poppy".

"We think the new album is better than the last one and we want people to hear it," said the Brooklyn rocker.

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I actually quite like the new album. I liked the last one too. I like this band - a lot. But I'm an old new waver, so I just like this pop genre.

I like them both a lot, too. Perhaps because I also grew up on new wave. Then again, I wasn't blown away by Phoenix, another band that I should probably have liked right away. I didn't *dislike* them - just was expecting more.

Maybe I'll go listen to MGMT right now.

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The small strokes in terms of background on MGMT (besides them garnering some legit star attention from the likes of Jay-Z and all) is that Steve Lillywhite has found himself in an A&R role at Columbia and so signed them to a five record deal - not insubstantial given the label's history and the economic climate in the music industry. The principals then brought in David Friddman but rather than impose their sound on him they basically told him to do his thing which was the 'Yoshimi Battles' sound he's best known for. I don't know who produced it this time out but no one could replicate that sound which has become so iconic and represented a landmark in the last decade's production sounds.

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