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Posted: 2008 06-19


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MGMT Perform Weekend Wars on Craig Ferguson, 2008

Yes, MGMT are Brooklyn hiptards straight out of central casting. They're, like, 12 years old and wear headbands and fedoras and want you to think they never bathe.

Yes, their cryptic four-letter moniker requires that the uninitiated (ie., 99% of the world) be informed that their name is pronounced "Management".

Yes, their music videos and web site look like an ironic unicorn threw up on some emotional kid's sensitive locker art.

Perhaps for all these reasons, as MGMT sweatily conquers small halls from Topeka to Tokyo, music industry insiders like Bob Lefsetz question their lasting influence (while gushing over the timeless integrity of such nuanced, groundbreaking gems as AC/DC's recently released "Rock 'n' Roll Train".)

Whatever ends up in the history books, MGMT is, for now, enjoying critical acclaim, sell-out tours and regular rotation at an Urban Outfitters in some mall in Cleveland. And the kids that shop there and buy records made by cool kids from Brooklyn don't really give a rat's ass what Lefsetz thinks. I know I don't.

Whether they've got another great album in them or they're just a flash in the pan - and if so, it's a hell of a flash - there's something about MGMT that sticks in the craw. I don't know about you, but I just sort of want them to win.

"Weekend Wars", the B-side to "Time to Pretend", the first single from 2007's Oracular Spectacular, is a great example of their shambling, neo-psychedelic sound. It's replete with proggy, downright goofy arpeggiated keyboards, a load of stop-start hooks that remind me of Bowie, Bolan, Ian Hunter and maybe a calorie-reduced Hawkwind, and wistful lyrical content that's both earnest and ironic at the same time, like David Byrne or Grandaddy at their best. It's a sublime pop ditty.

MGMT is really just two people, college buddies, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, but they tour with the very capable Will Berman (drums), James Richardson (guitar), and Matthew Asti (bass).

This performance evokes much of the energy of the album version, produced by Flaming Lips mainstay Dave Fridmann. VanWyngarden's voice, idiosyncratic at the best of times, can be downright annoying - like Billy Corgan annoying - in this clip. And for all the groove the song itself builds over its 4 minutes of pop perfection, I haven't seen this little energy on a stage since I accidentally ended up at a King Crimson reunion a few years back.

But if they don't exactly rock the late night world of Craig Ferguson here, they give us a nice glimpse into a smart, gutsy band that I think we'll be hearing from again, doubters be damned.

And if, like Lefsetz, you don't think this band has a future, hey, what can I say? Take it up with MGMT. Just be forewarned that they'll ignore you and keep doing what they're doing. They're the boss, get used to it. 

YouTube Uploader: AlexTheMartian

MGMT performing "Weekend Wars" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, June 9th, 2008.

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