It feels strange to be enthusing about US duo MGMT in 2018. Long ago Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser burned their bridges, or more accurately, turned them into surreal impassable corkcrews, by forgoing the euphoric synth pop of their debut album for dense psychedelia.
Oracular Spectacular, their first release, went platinum in 2008. Then these chronic pranksters set about shedding fans by the thousand. A decade later, with a fourth album out on Friday, they finally seem ready to make a stab at being popular again.
At this relatively small comeback show, they still didn’t make things easy for themselves. Technical problems forced long gaps between several songs, filled by an emergency recording of birdsong. But when they could play, some of the new songs sounded marvellous. She Works Out Too Much, delivered by VanWyngarden on an exercise bike, had energy and electronic fizz. Me and Michael, whose title was changed from Me and My Girl to make it more intriguing, had a soft rock pulse and something that has long been absent in their world: a warm singalong chorus.
Like the Year Sixes at primary school, the 10-year-old songs still dominated. Kids was an EDM banger translated by indie freaks. Electric Feel had some of Prince’s funkiness and a galloping rhythm. The crowd, even though many of the unfamiliar songs had instant appeal, visibly awoke when these old favourites arrived. The band may never get back that early glory, but they’re getting closer.