Pop review: MGMT, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

MGMT have had a good 2008. Their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, has been heaped with praise. Strategic appearances at summer festivals won them legions of indie-kid fans, and sold-out gigs are becoming the norm. The second of two packed London shows - "the last time we're going to play here for a long time," said singer Andrew VanWyngarden - felt like not just a consolidation of their year's work but a graduation to something solid and long-term.

The acid test was the audience's reaction to something they probably weren't expecting. The sound MGMT devised on Oracular Spectacular - Bee Gees meets Prince in swirling four-minute splashes - had primed us for a series of psychedelic starbursts. But what we got was prog rock. Deep within each twiddly freak-out was a shimmering disco-pop core, but this was prog at its self-engrossed proggiest. The previous night, VanWyngarden and keyboardist partner Ben Goldwasser had dressed as "pagans" to mark Thanksgiving. They didn't do that tonight, but it's not too much of a stretch to see how a penchant for whimsical costumes dovetails with a mindset that expands succinct pop songs into ambling instrumental opuses.

Yet the audience happily jiggled through it all, a clear sign that this New York duo (who expand to a five-piece for gigs) are on to something. It was impossible to watch fans blissing out to songs comprised of long segments of dreamy keyboard-work without grasping that MGMT probably have 2009 at their feet. And there is at least a solid, electro-pop foundation underneath, which suffused their three best numbers, Kids, Electric Feel and Time to Pretend, with brittle disco fabulousness.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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