Rock Reinvented


Published: January 31, 2008

MGMT: “Oracular Spectacular”

I’m not sure from whence or when MGMT (pronounced as “Management” by some, simply not pronounced by others) came. The bio on their official Web site says they met at Wesleyan University in 2002 and now reside in Brooklyn, but one listen of the group’s freespirited debut, “Oracular Spectacular,” and you’ll agree that this band comes from some yet-to-be-discovered planet that rests on the outskirts of a far galaxy and exists only in the year 1967. The album’s opener, “Time to Pretend,” begins with warbled, distorted sounds of what may be birds or bongs or aliens or all three, all of which give way to a dangerously infectious synth line. When they proclaim their ambition to “live fast and die young,” you don’t cringe at the hackneyed phrase, but rather become jealous of their earnestness. The album is one long message of escapism, one summed up best on “The Youth” when they very explicitly explain the album’s purpose: “This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together.” It’s an awfully agreeable message, even if it is spoken by aliens.

Grade: A

Vampire Weekend: “Vampire Weekend”

This album sounds a lot like Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” which means it sounds a lot like a classic album steeped in South African drums and sugary melodies, but it is really just a good album steeped in African drums and sugary melodies. The album’s peaks come not when the Columbia grads simply ape Garfunkel’s buddy (“A-Punk”), but when they add their own touch to the blueprint by bringing some Wes Anderson-esque strings into the mix (“M79”) or letting the keyboards kick out some downright funky jams (“One (Blake’s Got A New Face)”). The sub-40-minute runtime works in the band’s favor, as having to hear them sing about Cape Cod any more would start to get a bit grating. The album probably makes for a great listen on a summertime trip on the yacht while throwing back a few mojitos, but as it stands, it’s simply so-so.

Grade: B-