TVD Live Shots:
MGMT at the Electric Brixton, 2/6

The fact that it’s been a decade since MGMT’s debut album Oracular Spectacular was released is mind-blowing to me. I remember getting an advance copy of this album back when I was working at Sony Music and playing it for everyone I knew. The reception was the same universally; this record was an instant classic. It was one of the most unusual records I had ever come across during my time in the music business, but it was brilliant, and the label was incredibly excited to release this one as was I.

I saw MGMT about a dozen times that year. From SXSW to the relentless touring, it was really exciting to witness a band go from completely unknown to one of the biggest buzz bands on the planet. I had met the band numerous times through a couple of tours, various retail promotions, and a slew of SXSW events. Both Andrew and Ben were pretty quiet, Andrew seemingly more of an introvert than Ben, but they were really cool guys. I don’t think they ever expected to be thrust into the limelight so quickly, then again they did sign to one of the biggest records labels on the planet.

It’s interesting to me how an artist responds to the pressure of following up a hit debut record with their sophomore effort. When Congratulations was released, it was pretty much a giant middle finger to the entire music business. MGMT had abandoned the hooks and synth-pop from their debut and went total Syd Barrett. I had heard rumblings that the label was pretty baffled as to how to promote this one, but they couldn’t say no to their new crossover darlings of the hipster music scene. But then it got even more confusing with the release of 2012’s self-titled record which the band admitted to fans that they would be “laughing with them.”

And the fans responded by voting with their streams. According to a recent post from Pitchfork, “one look at their first three albums’ declining streaming numbers on Spotify—2013’s MGMT has just 4 percent the plays of their 2007 debut—confirms that the band’s fan base has steadily winnowed over the past 11 years, whether or not MGMT fully intended it.” It reminds me of that line in Spinal Tap when the journalist asks Spinal Tap’s manager if the band’s popularity is waning, to which he responds, “Oh no no no, I think the band’s appeal is just becoming more selective.”

The question then became, how long can MGMT keep this up before giving in and writing a record that the majority of the fans of the first album could celebrate? Well, that was finally answered in London at the sold-out Electric Brixton show last week. MGMT’s triumphant return to the UK showcased their new album Little Dark Age, and it returns to the duo to its synth-pop genius.

While there are no immediate dancefloor fillers like “Electric Feel” and no clear anthem such as “Kids,” the record is a solid effort from start to finish. Smart beats, simplified landscapes, curious lyrics, but a step forward from the decade-old debut. It begs the question, is this the proper follow-up? Was MGMT fucking with us all along? Either way, it’s good to have them back and I’m really digging the new record and the show was stellar. Welcome back, gentleman.

And here’s a fun fact for you. Back in 2008, I was the sales and marketing rep for independent label Junketboy which was an imprint for releases made especially for the Coalition of Independent Record Stores. The label had rushed out a vinyl release of Justice’s remix of “Electric Feel” and my job was to get this thing out in time to be considered for the Grammy Awards as the cut off date was quickly approaching. So, I guess you could say I helped the band win their first Grammy.

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