MGMT — “Time to Pretend”

Released: 3.3.08

Peak: #109

“Synth-pop” must have been too easy a tag, because MGMT’s debut, Oracular Spectacular, trailed fancy adjectives in its wake like “prog” and “psych” instead. But classifying a sound, that’s just marketing. Classifying a sensibility, on the other hand, that’s a matter of aesthetics, and Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser are indie rockers right down to their quizzical, twitchy hearts. Each of their early singles enveloped the world in electronic quotation marks–or maybe just defaced it with a strike-through–while feigning sincerity the form of an adorable chintziness.

Exhibit A: “Time to Pretend,” the apotheosis of the longstanding indie-rock impulse to resist, ironize, and obsess over success, updated for an era in which our fascination with celebrity had metastasized throughout even the remotest cells of pop culture. (Exhibit B: MGMT waited to apotheosize the longstanding indie-rock impulse to resist, ironize, and obsess over sex until their follow-up single, “Electric Feel,” which suggested a dance mix of mid-80s Fleetwood Mac. Priorities!) The ping-pong synth rhythm of “Time to Pretend,” rising from an electronic ooze only to sink back down, kept pace with a treadmill of eternal recurrence, and its hook, sounding like rubbed-together balloons, suggested a sham celebration.

There’s no principled aversion to fame here, just a wide enough vision to acknowledge the trade offs that come with “making it,” particularly the loss of “the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.” “Time to Pretend” splits the difference between fantasy and irony, and then, for good measure, both ironizes its fantasies and fantasizes about its ironies. Irony was never the either/or equation troll-guy-realists insisted back during its ’90s heyday, but rather a way to deepen and expand your relationship to the world. Not that I’m gonna fight those old battles here–you irony-haters have long since got plenty mouthfuls of the sincerity you cherished, and good luck keeping it down. But “Time to Pretend” understands that no matter how achingly you phrase your imagined sensitivities, in the future, everyone will pretend to be famous for fifteen minutes–again and again and again.

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  • John  On March 13, 2011 at 9:54 am

    My attempt to gather all of the Useful Noise songs in MP3 form is, save for the Freelance Hellraiser track, up to the end of ’06. Top Ten most played:

    1. Golden Boys (a song that I had never heard before your effort, and I thank you for spotlighting it)
    2. New Slang
    3. Party Up (Up In Here)
    4. Dance Like A Monkey (one that I’ve liked since its release–had I not had to start my iTunes rankings anew after my computer was stolen in Feb ’09, it would easily be #1 here)
    5. Maps
    6. Hey Ya!
    7. Hung Up
    8. Music
    9. Last Nite
    10. Losing My Edge

    Keep up the good work!

  • usefulnoise  On March 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Cool. Sorry to hear about your computer.

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