I often find myself scratching my head when bands are compared to MGMT because I just don't get the comparisons. I know that many of you disagree with me about EOTS-I think they're a cheap rip off, but some of my very fave people love them, so I won't bash them further. Anyway, I enjoy Foster (I hate Pumped Up Kicks) but for very different reasons that I like MGMT. I understand the sort of crossover comparison in this article and I think it has a couple of interesting tidbits, so I'm posting it. http://www.stereogum.com/1670848/the-week-in-pop-the-mis-mgmt-of-foster-the-people/franchises/the-week-in-pop/The Week In Pop: The Mis-MGMT Of Foster The People
Mar 20th '14 by Chris DeVille
Every few years, a musician achieves that rare combination of commercial dominance and critical acclaim — and therefore inspires lots of copycats — only to willfully retreat from the spotlight. This usually involves making an album designed to alienate mainstream audiences and/or distance the originator from the imitators. It also tends to create a vacuum into which those imitators can leap, allowing them to bask in commercial success for a while until everyone stops searching for “the new _____.” Nirvana and Pearl Jam attempted this maneuver in 1993 with the abrasive In Utero and the video-free Vs. respectively, clearing the way for Stone Temple Pilots, Live, and Bush to satiate the public’s bubblegrunge hunger. When Radiohead famously muffled Thom Yorke’s heavenly falsetto and handcuffed Jonny Greenwood’s spastic six-string theatrics on 2000′s Kid A, the world had no shortage of potential “new Radioheads” to choose from. And when constant hitmaker Kanye West flipped the digital middle finger that was Yeezus last year, urban radio programmers found workable substitutes in Yeezy facsimiles such as Big Sean and J. Cole.
MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular was the sort of world-conquering unanimous favorite you rarely see anymore, an album that crossed over from alt-rock channels to produce three inescapable pop hits, each of which also cracked the Pazz & Jop critics’ poll’s top 50. (The album itself finished in the critics’ top 20.) MGMT’s psych-tinged dance-pop was everywhere — on the radio, at dance parties, in seemingly every ad on TV. But when the duo decided to muffle its formidable pop powers on 2010 follow-up Congratulations in favor of an insular psych and post-punk odyssey, there was an opportunity for MGMT clones to run rampant on the pop charts. Some of them (Empire Of The Sun) were more palatable than others (Capital Cities). Some (STRFKR) took over for MGMT in the TV sync department but couldn’t replicate their chart success; others (Portugal. The Man) broke at alternative radio but couldn’t crack the top 40. You could make a good case that Oracular Spectacular paved the way for the embrace of Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend beyond their original niche audience. But no one seized the post-MGMT moment quite like Foster The People.
Mark Foster was literally writing commercial jingles for a living when he concocted “Pumped Up Kicks,” an incandescent morsel of programming department catnip that became for 2011 what “Time To Pretend,” “Electric Feel,” and “Kids” were for 2008. It was expertly engineered to dominate that marginally psychedelic, synth-driven pop-rock niche that MGMT had vacated, all the way down to its nonsensical lyrics about children. Peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 singles chart, “Pumped Up Kicks” was a pop cultural money train that even Foster’s historically awkward SNL stage presence couldn’t derail. (To be genealogically fair, “Pumped Up Kicks” also leaned heavily on the breezy lightness of Peter Bjorn And John’s whistlin’ wonder “Young Folks,” another song you could run from but couldn’t hide from at the height of indie gentrification.) Alas, the song also marked Foster The People as a surefire one-hit wonder. Torches, the eminently acceptable album anchored by “Pumped Up Kicks,” yielded four other singles, but only one of them cracked the Hot 100 singles chart. That song, “Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls),” only made it to #86.
If you can remember Foster The People’s second performance on SNL at all, you’re more likely to remember that Kenny G joined them than you are to recall which song they played. (That’d be “Houdini,” a song that lived up to its name by quickly disappearing from radio playlists without a trace.) Still, on the strength of “Pumped Up Kicks” alone, Foster The People became a name brand bankable enough to pack 5,000-capacity venues and appear near the top of the Coachella poster on the same line as commercial powerhouses such as Pharrell, Lorde, Skrillex, and Queens Of The Stone Age (and above MGMT, incidentally). Thus, now comes Supermodel, a sophomore album carrying a weight of expectations it can’t possibly begin to shoulder.
Like Torches before it, Supermodel is sleek, shiny, and professional in every way. That state-of-the-art veneer is no doubt partially due to the continued involvement of British producer Paul Epworth, who got his start producing mid-aughts dance-punk blokes like Bloc Party and the Futureheads then ascended the ranks until Adele’s 21 made him one of pop’s most in-demand guiding lights. Epworth is now the guy you bring in if, like U2, you’re a rock band vying to be a commercial powerhouse in a climate when almost no rock bands pull that kind of weight. “I promised I would rid the world of feral animals,” Foster sings on the surprisingly shoegazey “Pseudologia Fantastica,” but Epworth is just as likely the one shaving down the teeth here.
And you can be sure that Supermodel is an album without bite, one built to placate the lowest common denominator and keep Foster swimming in licensing money. That’s not to say it lacks ideas. When Foster isn’t directly milking the old MGMT sound on tracks like “Nevermind” and “Best Friend,” he does experiment here and there. “A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon” borrows Clams Casino’s beat from A$AP Rocky’s “LVL,” but the song Foster builds on top of it is even more of a slog than Rocky’s. “Goats In Trees” is a uniquely bleary ballad haunted by stirring ghostly samples, but also by Foster’s less than stellar vocal performance. The Beatlesesque choral arrangement on the interlude “The Angelic Welcome Of Mr. Jones” is beautiful but fleeting, and a stab at replicating Vampire Weekend’s pan-global pop-rock on opener “Are You What You Want To Be?” turns out better than it has any right to. Only the aforementioned shoegaze turn on “Pseudologia Fantastica” suggests a fascinating way forward, but even that could pass for a hazy rewrite of “Weekend Wars.”
But Foster is far better at setting a mood than he is at writing timeless pop songs. He can keep deploying his trusty “Electric Feel” gang vocals to shroud his own vocal weaknesses (and on the grating “Ask Yourself,” he really should have), but all those voices can’t hide the absence of a melody as indelible as “Pumped Up Kicks.” Thus, he ends up with singles like “Coming Of Age,” a ditty with all the ingratiating propulsion of “Kicks” but no substance to latch onto. It stalled out short of the Hot 100 and feels more like arrested development than a coming of age. The main difference between timeless pop music and soulless product is a genuine spark of inspiration, and that tends to run out when you’re riding someone else’s coattails. The artists that manage to get out of somebody else’s shadow are the ones who find their own identities — say what you want about Muse, but don’t say they sound like Radiohead anymore. Foster The People make some half-hearted attempts at such reinvention on Supermodel, but mostly they sound like they’re trying their hardest to be the band MGMT is doing their damnedest not to be.