In 2007, college friends Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden made a record because they probably didn’t know what the hell else they were supposed to be doing. It was called Oracular Spectacular, and it was pretty good. It had some nice songs on it. They were enjoyable to listen to. A few songs from the album attracted the attention of millions of mouth-breathers the world over, and suddenly Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden knew they would probably never want for anything ever again, but felt bummed about it anyway, because Jesus Christ, people, you bought the album for “Kids”? We don’t even really like that song, thought Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, maybe, and we wrote that shit all the way back in 2005. Oh, well, thought Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, before placing a few more tabs of acid on their beautiful watermelon-pink tongues.
Two years later, obviously creeped out by the success of their first album, and after touring the world many times over and standing in front a bunch of dopes who don’t really give a damn about the cool dudes bleeding out before them, the two released a “reactionary” album called Congratulations. It was about a million times better than Oracular Spectacular. Most of the album sounded like the weirder, more esoteric second half of OS, which people didn’t seem to care for or understand, because they couldn’t really dance mindlessly to it at their jerkoff friend’s dumbass party. The album was a big shrug. It was two guys saying, “Man, whatever, here’s some more fucking music I guess.” It was so good that a 23-year-old man in Baltimore, who had just broken up with his long-term girlfriend whom he still loved, listened to it and very little else for three otherwise miserable months. Congratulations became an album that the drooling amorphous blob of cells known as “people” claimed just wasn’t all that good, because y’all didn’t make anything that sounded like “Time to Pretend” again, which was catchy, and hell, you know you gotta make them songs catchy if you want any chance of being loved by human-shaped creatures who don’t know what the hell they like or why they like it in the first place. MGMT shrugged at the world, and the world shrugged back.
Finally: Here we are in the year of our Lord 2013, and the two young men collectively known as MGMT have released their third album, a self-titled collection of ten weird, somber Brian Eno tunes. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing they’ve put out. There’s no part of it that says, “Here’s that thing you wanted.” Rather, it is, even more than Congratulations, forty-four solid minutes of, “Here’s this thing that we would be making by ourselves with no audience anyway, but, uhhhh, you guys can buy it if you feel like doing that.” The cover, which features lavender child VanWyngarden standing frozen in a glob of inertia-indifference as Goldwasser gazes on, half-amused, if he’s not asleep, into what very well may be an empty bird cage, in front of a suburban hair salon/consignment shop that is maybe holding a yard sale on a perfectly nice, harmless, muted, floating-through-a-painless-dream kind of day, is all you need to know about the album. It depicts precisely how the album feels. In that sense it’s as honest as they come.
A 25-year-old man in Oakland, who has few “real” friends and no girlfriend, and who has zero prospects or desire to change that fact, has hung out with MGMT’s MGMT since the day it was released—has listened to it about a hundred times now. And it has made him feel pretty OK at an age when feeling OK requires a great deal of effort that he’s not sure is worth the expense.
As far as I can tell, not many people seem to like MGMT. But then again, who cares? The world is a god damn joke anyway.
For what it’s worth, it is a nice thing and the few of us still paying attention are glad it exists. Thanks, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden.