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.

Contributor

Stevie Chick

The GuardianTramp

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