Live review of MGMT at Nottingham Rock City, Thursday 6th November 2008.
Having been thrust into the limelight as the Stateside answer to new rave at the back end of 2007, you could almost be forgiven in thinking MGMT's star has faded faster than its risen. Add to that a reputation for underwhelming live performances means the calligraphers are already emblazoning the wall in long-winded death knells.
Thank God, then, that the doom mongers appear to be largely in the minority. Certainly anyone present at their cataclysmic Leeds Festival show would find it hard to believe they're already being written off as nothing more than a studio band, while any suggestion that MGMT are a Klaxons-lite carbon copy under a stars and stripes augmented banner really need to get their ears and eyes tested. And fast, because what MGMT bring to the party is a vast array of musical styles and sounds that suggests their knowledge and inspiration lies far beyond that of the warehouse dance party scene.
For starters their ranks, swelled from the initial core duo of Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser to a five-piece for the live circuit, manage to make the admittedly radio-friendly pop of 'Time To Pretend' and set closer 'Kids' sound like fanfares for the modern man; sure, no one can argue that their use of synthesised beats creates more than a touch of footloose action both on and offstage, but their overall sound is one that harks back to an era many believed had died and gone to heaven three decades ago, blown away by the spittle and grit of the first wave of punk rock.
Whisper it quietly then folks but MGMT are the acceptable face of progressive rock. A well accomplished, slightly less obtuse and infinitely more photogenic update on the likes of Emerson Lake And Palmer or Yes, the type of bands your boring uncle probably tells you were the last great musicians of their kind. Throw in a bit of New Order and a lyrical fluency that shouts "This Is The 21st Century - Deal With It!" in capital letters from the highest rooftops and a savvy to throw a spanner in the pop machine and elongate their music with 10-minute key/guitar/drum (insert/delete weapon of choice) solos when least expected and you've actually got one of the most exciting, and without doubt unique live acts doing the rounds today.
Frontman Van Wyngarden's vocals, so often the brunt of most criticism, are on top form this evening, none more so than on the stripped down (by their standards) 'Pieces Of What', while 'The Handshake' feels like the post-ecstasy call to arms it was intended, only making sense even more so here than on the average 'Oracular Spectacular'.
Indeed the only criticism that could be aimed at the band this evening is a lack of new material, but with the creative juices clearly in overflow, one can imagine they're probably coming up with ideas as we speak, or rather while they play. One thing's for sure, and that is you can bet your bottom dollar the second album will be in a totally different vein to 'Oracular.' such is their propensity to cross-pollinate between genres both old and new, which makes the next 12 months a hive of anticipation as MGMT epitomise the statement "exciting times ahead."