Here are a few things we learned Monday night at MGMT's show at House of Blues. First off, they are not a "live" band in the grand musical sense of the word. While new album Congratulations is a catchy, odd, fucked-up little sophomore outing, it's not at all meant for live consumption. Secondly, they are trying really hard to not be a "singles" band, but sadly, they could only get a rise out of anyone with their core four singles. Which is not their fault, but the fault of their following, which has slowly evolved to mean preppy dance band. Anyone who still thinks they are a cutting-edge (tee-hee) indie band looks to be about a year behind. And lastly: White guys, unlike white girls, only know about three ways to dance, and one of them is to hump invisible people or inanimate objects. All three will make those same girls laugh and most others cringe. What hurt the most was that even after we had developed all three of these opinions during the course of their show, MGMT managed to disappoint us even more by closing with "Kids," backed by a recorded track of the song complete with - Jesus Christ - a fade-out.
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So instead of incorporating their new sound onto older songs, maybe reworking "Kids" a la everything they are attempting now, MGMT pushed play on a Macbook and wiggled in front of a crowd who, of course, saw nothing wrong with that in the slightest. You didn't see the band perform "Kids"; you saw the band that wrote the song push a button and smile at you for four minutes while miming the lyrics and holding up plastic hangers. True story. From there until the "Kids" calamity, the set was live and was at least admirable for attempting some of Congratulations' more obscure passages. We have to say, the first twenty minutes weren't bad at all. They pulled off somehow the new album's creaky Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd business without too much incident. Even the polarizing "Flash Delirium" sounded healthy.
It was the stuff that came from 2007's Oracular Spectacular that sounded wooden. On "Electric Feel" they really tried for a Prince slant, and we even felt some of the groove, but it failed. How you could spend nearly three years and manage to suck the life out of what was a refreshingly weird and trippy debut album is beyond us. We get that on Congratulations, your game changed, but you could at least drag the older kids into your new family portrait. Just because the dynamic changed doesn't mean you have to dumb down or belittle what got you there to the point where people actually gave a shit, had high hopes and in turn have an opinion about your new work. Before our issue with "Kids," MGMT did play two of Congratulations' more live-ready tracks, "Brian Eno" and the title song. They were witchy and slow T.Rex-style numbers, especially the former. If the whole night would have gone like those two, things would have been different. Then maybe we wouldn't be bemoaning the show like a cynical old bastard who isn't "down."