MGMT review – wallpaper synthpop drowned out by chatter

Somerset House, London
The fake plastic shrubs on stage have more charisma than Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser in this understated, underwhelming set

Cradling a plastic cup, singer-guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden bumbles on stage like a tweedy lecturer meeting his students for the first time. Not that anyone expected Iggy Pop-style shenanigans, but he does set the tone for what turns out to be a static, cold-blooded experience. Guitarist-keyboardist James Richardson, who resembles Julian Cope three days into a lysergic bender and sporting a Jaime Lannister-esque cape and black leather armour, does attempt to redress the balance.

But MGMT are struggling to compel even the faithful standing at the front of the stage, in danger of being drowned out by distracted audience chatter. It’s a shame – although they play too many underperforming synthpop threnodies, there are moments where VanWyngarden and creative partner Ben Goldwasser prove adept at affecting chord changes and seductive ripples of left-field disco. Windswept and resonant track The Youth is perfectly underplayed. That and the melancholic throb of Little Dark Age deliver subtle pleasures that are overshadowed by the neon heart-rushes of their biggest hits, Electric Feel and Kids, both of which inspire brief, fevered dancing. (Then comes an exodus of couples leaving early to relieve the babysitter.)

Those anthems – overfamiliar from copious appearances on TV soundtracks – still hit their mark, in particular, the choppy nerd-funk of Electric Feel. But VanWyngarden and Goldwasser struggle to compete with the charisma of the fake plastic shrubs on stage, regularly erring on complacent wallpaper pop that even the sight of VanWygarden performing from an exercise bike (a fleeting gesture towards showbiz production values) can’t rescue. On this scale, they are uninvolving and, ultimately, underwhelming.


Stevie Chick

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
MGMT: Little Dark Age review – synthpop pranksters get serious for a change
After two albums of wilfully awkward music seemingly designed to lose them fans, the duo return with some unironically gorgeous melodies and a dash of hallucinogenic weirdness

Alexis Petridis

08, Feb, 2018 @12:00 PM

Article image
MGMT: MGMT – review
Brooklyn's psychedelic explorers go even deeper down the rabbit hole – and further away from their radio-friendly beginnings – and it sounds great, writes Kate Hutchinson

Kate Hutchinson

19, Sep, 2013 @9:15 PM

Article image
MGMT – review

The expanded stage version of MGMT were more interested in cosmic jamming than popularity in a set of head-wrecking polyphony, writes Graeme Virtue

Graeme Virtue

14, Oct, 2013 @4:04 PM

MGMT, ICA, London

ICA, London

Tom Hughes

08, Mar, 2008 @12:07 AM

Article image
The Great Escape review – raunchy rap, cracking synthpop and rock'n'roll fireworks
A handful of standout acts were exhilarating but this celebration of new music highlighted a drift towards sameness and whimsy

David Bennun

20, May, 2018 @11:08 AM

MGMT | Pop review
Heaven, London
MGMT forget they're a pop band and start experimenting with key changes and effects in a way that exposes them as stoner musos, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

22, Mar, 2010 @10:00 PM

CD: MGMT, Oracular Spectacular

(Sony BMG)

Jude Rogers

07, Mar, 2008 @12:05 AM

Article image
Reading 2008 review: MGMT

They prove that, on occasions, theatrical guitar solos can be as fun for the crowd as the guy gurning his way through it onstage. If the Raconteurs are reading - we said 'on occasions'

Tim Jonze

23, Aug, 2008 @10:12 AM

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

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London The second of two packed London shows felt like a graduation to something solid and long-term

Caroline Sullivan

02, Dec, 2008 @12:01 AM

MGMT: Congratulations | CD review
MGMT's second album isn't all mannered paisley – there are perfect pop tunes in there too, says Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

10, Apr, 2010 @11:05 PM